The Anatomy of Donald Trump’s South Carolina Supporters: Fed Up And Fearful

Supporters of the Republican front-runner believe Trump will make them safer.

December 14, 2015, 7:17 AM

AIKEN, South Carolina — -- Meet John Wood.

He lives in Aiken, South Carolina, and says Americans should be scared about who is coming into the country. So that's why he’s for voting for Donald Trump.

"I know I'm afraid," said Wood, who was laid off from his construction job in 2011 and has since settled into retirement. "We need to know who these people are, and I don’t think they should be able to just come into this country illegally and shoot up people."

In a series of interviews conducted at Trump's town hall last weekend in South Carolina, many supporters of the billionaire real estate mogul expressed outright fear -- and others a general unease -- about the security of the United States.

In looking at the threat of an attack on the homeland, many of the voters expressed particular concern about the potential threat posed by both refugees from the Middle East and those who enter the United States illegally through the southern border -- groups that Trump has vilified on the campaign trail.

And here in the Palmetto State, where the Republican front-runner maintains one of his most commanding leads in early primary state polls, backers of the New Yorker told ABC News how their uneasiness with the threats facing the country and frustrations with politics as usual have drawn them to Trump, whose brash style and independent wealth, they say, bolster his authenticity.

Robert Williams, a lineman for the power company in North Augusta, said he is "on my guard" after the recent shooting in San Bernardino, California.

"Going to the mall, you don’t know who’s going to be there and might start shooting people up," Williams said.

His wife, Linda, who works in insurance, believes Trump is the best choice to make the country safer and expressed support for his proposal to close the southern border and impose a temporary ban on the entry of all Muslims into the country.

"For the first time in my life I don’t feel safe in my country, especially because of ISIS and the cartel coming up through the southern border," Linda Williams said.

Gladys Hood, who emigrated to the United States over 50 years ago from Panama, said she’s scared that future generations will not be able to know the country she has grown to love.

"I'm scared and I have children and grandchildren and I hope things get better so things get back to how they used to be," Hood said.

Supporters also expressed a sense of frustration with the current direction of the country under President Obama, and are fed up with what they see as a powerful political class that does not represent their voice and is pulling the strings behind the scenes.

Williams, the power company lineman, declared himself "fed up with the president we have right now."

"I think he’s thrown us under the bus with the Iran deal; it’s dangerous for us and our allies overseas, like Israel," he said.

Wood, who sees a suffering economy and growing terrorist threat under the president’s watch, points to his own life circumstance as evidence that the country is heading in the wrong direction.

"I always had a job until Obama’s presidency," he said.

What’s more, such supporters said they trust Trump to make things right.

Margie Ross of North Augusta, South Carolina, said, "I am fed up and concerned, and I believe Donald Trump has what it takes to make America great again. I really do.”

Fundamental to their faith in Trump is also what has made him so controversial: his brash, open style. Voters point to Trump’s unfiltered rhetoric as evidence of his independence and authenticity.

"He speaks how he feels and speaks honestly,” Hood said. “He means what he said and the other political people are using nice words to make it sound nice but Trump is not, he tells it like it is.”

"I think his honesty, he’s just very upfront and honest with us," Ross noted.

And though all that honesty may come with its share of controversy, it’s what his supporters want to hear.

"He’s definitely saying what people are thinking," Jim Wilson, a government employee from Augusta, said. "He always keeps going up when he makes those kind of comments, because a lot of us feel that way about most of the stuff."

While voters like Wilson admire Trump's willingness to wade into controversy, he also acknowledged that Trump is "a little rough around the edges."

Linda Williams said Trump’s "showman" personality is sometimes over-the-top, but she said she looks "way beyond that."

"His heart is good and he loves this country or he wouldn’t be doing this," she said.

Patricia Dabkowski, an Aiken resident who lived in New Jersey and was working as a nurse on the day of the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, said Trump's tough talk is not disqualifying.

“I’m sure if he gets in the White House, he knows how to deal with people, and he will not be as abrupt as he is on the campaign trail. He does that to get attention, he’s no dummy -- he’s a businessman,” Dabkowski said.

She and other supporters also see Trump's rhetoric as evidence that he's sufficiently independent from the establishment political class, thanks in no small part to his personal wealth.

"We don’t want someone who’s being paid by big groups to vote their way," Dabkowski said. "We need someone who is going to speak up for us. He can pay his own way and he can speak his own mind."

As for Trump’s claim that he saw video of "thousands" of Muslims in New Jersey celebrating on 9/11, Dabkowski said she writes it off as hyperbole and does not see it as a knock on his honesty.

"I think it’s an exaggeration," she said. "I think there were people who did celebrate but it's an exaggeration; exaggeration gets attention."

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