Why a third of Clinton supporters say Trump's victory is illegitimate

One-third of Hillary Clinton supporters say Donald Trump's presidential victory is not legitimate, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll.

Jose Luis Magana/AP
A protester holds a banner supporting Hillary Clinton during a march in downtown Washington in opposition to President-elect Donald Trump on Nov. 12, 2016.

One-third of Hillary Clinton supporters believe Donald Trump's presidential victory was illegitimate, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll. 

While 58 percent of Clinton supporters say they accept her defeat, 33 percent do not, the poll found. Twenty-seven percent reported feeling "strongly" that the Trump win was not legitimate. 

The poll, which comes as thousands of Clinton supporters have taken to the streets to protest the results of the election, demonstrates a turning of the tables from the days, weeks, and months leading up to election day, during which Trump supporters were significantly more likely to say they would not accept defeat for their candidate. Prior to Tuesday, another Washington Post-ABC News poll found that 22 percent of Trump supporters said they would not accept a Clinton victory, encouraged by the Republican nominee's warnings of an election rigged against him

"There was a staggering amount of shock," Raphael Sonenshein, executive director of the Edmund G. Brown Institute of Public Affairs at California State University Los Angeles, told The Christian Science Monitor in the wake of the Trump victory. "This was an extraordinarily intense campaign, and we’re seeing a lot of angst and concern, especially in communities that were talked about in a negative way."

Adding to the angst and concern is Mrs. Clinton's widening popular vote lead over Mr. Trump. As of Saturday, Clinton had won the popular vote by roughly 1.8 million votes, a margin that stands poised to grow, leading many of her supporters to criticize not only Trump himself, but the electoral college system that enabled his victory.

The electoral college system has been under scrutiny since long before the 2016 election: for nearly seven decades, the majority of Americans have told pollsters that the Electoral College should be replaced, as David Iaconangelo reported for The Christian Science Monitor prior to Election Day: 

The consensus cuts across party lines: In 2013, the latest poll, 61 percent of Republicans told Gallup they would do away with it, along with 63 percent of independents and 66 percent of Democrats. And in such a highly polarized present, some say that replacing the Electoral College could act as a salve for seemingly unrelated problems.

With animus toward presidents growing since 1992 and peaking with the current candidates, says Jack Rakove, a Stanford University professor of history and political science, a system that comes closer to the ideal of “one person, one vote” might take the edge off of partisan rancor.

"I think we’re going through a crisis of presidential legitimacy," Professor Rakove told the Monitor. "I happen to think that it would be healthy to the body politic, having one national constituency as opposed to being divided between red and blue states." 

The discordance between electoral college and popular vote results make Clinton the second president in two decades – and the fifth since the electoral college was created in 1787 – to lose an election despite winning the popular vote. 

"It's a very unique system, it's certainly less democratic than other systems, but it's also unique and it grows out of our history," Saul Anuzis, a former chairman of the Michigan Republican Party, told the Monitor last week. "The question is: Do we have the ability to change it? And the answer is probably not."

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