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In Rural Illinois, Trump Supporters Distrust News Media

Several women gather each week in the Fulton Community Center in Fulton, Illinois. They talk and work on sewing and crochet projects, but one thing they don't discuss is politics.

Editor's Note: VOA reporters recently traveled to rural areas along the Mississippi River to speak with the "forgotten men and women" who are supporters of President Donald Trump. They spoke to farmers, factory workers, and retirees in largely white, Christian middle class communities. This is one of their stories.

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The sound of electric sewing machines fills a room in the Fulton, Illinois community center.

Several women gather there each week to talk and work on sewing and crochet projects. The women do not share the same political beliefs, so they usually avoid talking about politics.

But one of the women, Linda Ebersole, did agree to speak with VOA about the 2016 presidential election.

Ebersole is a retired health care worker. She lives in Rock Falls, in the eastern part of Whiteside County, Illinois.

Ebersole said she tried to look objectively at the two major candidates last year, but she did not like either of them.

“We were voting for the lesser of the two evils when it came down to the end,” she said.

The retired nurse said Donald Trump was unpredictable, so she had trouble believing much of what he said. And she thought Hillary Clinton had been untruthful numerous times and had shown a lack of respect for voters.

In the end, Ebersole voted for Trump because he seemed to want to bring change. But now she is worried that the nation’s news media will block his efforts. She said that is unfair. And she says it makes her more supportive of the president.

“If ever that man did three positive things one day and one negative thing, the thing that would be stressed by the news media is that negative thing,” she said. “I do think the news media is biased against Trump.”

Linda Ebersole takes a break from her weeking sewing gathering at the Fulton Community Centerl.
Linda Ebersole takes a break from her weeking sewing gathering at the Fulton Community Centerl.

Ebersole says she watches television news broadcasts and reads her local newspaper. But she says since the election she has been watching Fox News, which usually supports conservative politicians.

Ebersole is worried that many young people she knows do not follow the news. She says young people watch shows that she believes criticize conservatives but rarely target liberals.

Although there are few immigrants in Whiteside County, many people there talk about immigration. Ebersole says immigrants who enter the United States legally -- and are willing to work to become part of the community -- should be welcomed.

But Ebersole experienced a clash of cultures with Muslim immigrants. She said an old woman in a long dress and a headscarf that covered everything except her face stepped in front of her while she was waiting in line at a store. Ebersole said she spoke to the younger people with the woman about her actions, but they did not do anything.

“She was the matriarch of the family and she did not think she needed to wait in line,” Ebersole said. “They came here and they need to fit in as much as possible. They need to assimilate to the country they are in.”

Ebersole says the United States should not have to accept people who violate immigration laws by either staying after their visas end or coming across the border without government permission.

“They need to do it legally,” she said.

Ebersole said she agreed with President Trump’s attempts to temporarily ban immigrants from some Muslim-majority nations because of the threat of terrorism. She said refugees need to be investigated and the number the government accepts must be reasonable.

“We cannot take in everyone from the whole world,” she said.

Ebersole said these beliefs are held by people in rural Illinois who hold different political beliefs.

“You have a lot of common core values that you agree about,” she said. “I think that is the strength of this area -- that you do have those values, like family, a lot of times faith. You do have those basic things that are more important in a way than what the politics are doing.”

VOA Correspondent Greg Flakus reported this story from Fulton, Illinois. Christopher Jones-Cruise adapted his report for Learning English. George Grow was the editor.

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Words in This Story

sewing machine – n. a machine that is used for sewing things

crochet – n. a method of making cloth or clothing by using a needle with a hook at the end to form and weave loops in a thread

stress – n. a state of mental tension and worry caused by problems in your life, work, etc.

biased – adj. having or showing a bias; having or showing an unfair tendency to believe that some people, ideas, etc., are better than others

head scarf – n. a piece of cloth worn over a woman’s or girl’s head

matriarch – n. a woman who controls a family, group or government

fit in – v. to belong in a particular situation, place or group

assimilate – v. to adopt the ways of another culture : to fully become part of a different society, country, etc.

core values – n. strongly held beliefs about what is valuable, important or acceptable

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