But many others were torn right up until the final days of the race, unhappy with their options and frustrated with candidates they viewed as deeply flawed.
These undecided voters consistently expressed alarm at Trump’s temperament and penchant for controversy, and wondered whether someone with no government experience could really assume the highest office of the land. And in Clinton, they saw a candidate who appeared to constantly blur the truth and whose election would represent more of the status quo in Washington.
This week, CNN connected with five of those individuals and asked who they ultimately voted for — and why.
We learned that three of them ended up voting for Trump; one for Clinton; and another for Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson.
Of the three who backed Trump, one was a Democrat and another was a Democrat-turned-independent. Both of them voted for President Barack Obama twice, but couldn’t bring themselves to support the Democratic nominee this year.
In extended conversations, this small group of previously undecided voters said many of the nagging concerns they had about Trump and Clinton early on in the campaign prevailed through Election Day: Trump’s lack of governing experience and volatile temper; Clinton’s perceived lack of honesty and struggle to do away with the email scandal.
They explained what led them to cast their ballots for the person they ultimately supported and reacted to Trump’s upset victory.
The following are edited transcripts of those interviews.
Tony Krupski: Voted for Trump
CNN met Krupski in March in Buffalo, New York. He was one of the many people we interviewed for a project about the Rust Belt. At the time, Krupski, a 74-year-old Democrat who voted for President Barack Obama in 2008 and 2012, said national security was one of his top concerns.
Why did you vote for Trump?
I was undecided at the time but I think one of the biggest things is that we thought that it would — the way things are going with the government, it would be the same old, same old. And some of Trump’s ideas — sometimes he didn’t express himself the best but some of the ideas I think might be good for the country and the future. The one thing that my wife had mentioned is how this Medicare program has really made things quite costly for us that are in the middle class. I don’t understand that stuff too much because she takes care of the finances but if she mentioned that then I’m going on with that theory.
When did you decide?
It came pretty close to — shortly before the actual voting. Trump with some of the things — the way he expressed himself — you were wondering, maybe this guy wouldn’t be a good idea to have him as my leader. But as we got closer, it seemed like maybe he calmed down a little bit.
Did you ever consider voting third party?
No, I myself — I could never understand these third party candidates — you hardly hear about them. Why are they even there? Could you tell me why?
What was the reason that you decided not to vote for Clinton?
We don’t feel that she was — doesn’t have that real sincere honesty when she speaks.
Was it something she said? Something specific?
It’s not like she was a completely bad candidate and shouldn’t even be there. That’s not true because she has her trail and work that she has done through the years. She’s done many positive things but it came down to — as we were getting closer — and picking who you think might be the best I guess at the time and it wound up being that Trump I think would be the better for us.
Who did your wife vote for?
She voted for Trump, also.
How about your friends and your neighbors?
Actually a lot of people don’t talk about it because they don’t know who they’re talking to and they don’t want to get into a conversation. But surprisingly some people that I thought were going to voting Democrat voted for the Republican. Apparently they were swayed as the election got closer, too.
How do you think your life will change with Trump as president?
I know things take time. Everything isn’t done right away.
Tarek Wazzan: Voted for Gary Johnson
CNN met Wazzan several months ago during a project about the Muslim Americans and the 2016 election. His family is from Lebanon and Wazzan, 41, owns a halal grocery store and restaurant on Staten Island, New York. He is a Democrat who supported Obama twice.
When we last spoke, you were leaning Libertarian. Who did you vote for?
I did vote Libertarian. I just really didn’t want to vote for Hillary at all and Donald Trump is not an option. You see what’s happening right now after he became President-elect, you’re seeing a lot of hatred and stuff.
When did you decide?
The day before the election, I sat down by myself to think about it and I didn’t have it in me to go vote for Hillary. No way, I really hate her. She’s not good for the Middle East. So I couldn’t vote for her.
Was foreign policy the main reason you didn’t want to vote for Clinton?
Yeah, being Lebanese, yeah, foreign policy was the main reason… She was really active in the Middle East and caused a lot of problems.
You said this was a shocker election?
It was a shocker. You know what? (Trump) read it right, everybody else read it wrong. He saw that there is a lot of hatred and all you have to do is fuel it up in the country and that would get you 85% of the white men. That’s amazing.
Would you have preferred Trump or Clinton?
Clinton. Again, because she has experience. Look at him — he’s trying to build his Cabinet and he’s all over the place.
Did you ever feel guilty for voting third party?
The numbers are very low anyway, still. For third party, right? Absolutely not, no regrets. It’s not like you made a difference.
Who did most people you know vote for?
Tim Wiles: Voted for Trump
Wiles is a bar owner from Buffalo, New York. When we met him earlier this year, he said he planned to write someone in rather than vote for Clinton or Trump. Back then, Wiles predicted: “I don’t think Trump is ever going to make it because they’re going to destroy him.”
Who did you vote for?
I voted for Trump. I was really undecided because I was going to write in the guy from Roswell… I looked at it, I looked at it, I looked at it and I said you know what, Tim? You need to make a decision. You can’t be that weak… Take a stance. So I took a stance and I voted Trump.
When did you decide?
Two days before. Although I will say this — I would never (have) voted for Hillary Clinton.
Why did you vote for Trump?
I voted for him primarily because I thought he was right in a lot of circumstances. But the bottom line is, the whole big picture is he’s going to be entertaining.
You liked that?
What was the alternative? Hillary Clinton? Here’s the bottom line. He’s a billionaire who’s got nothing to lose. Why would he even take the job? Think about that. Think about that. He wants his portrait on the wall of the White House…
As crazy as you may think I am, that he’s going to be there for about maybe two or three months, maybe four month, maybe five months, maybe a year, and he’s going to quit and when he’s done, which I think is f—ing brilliant, what I think he’s done is he’s decided who’s going to be next president which is his vice president, and he’s going to resign.
Did most people you know vote for Trump?
Are you kidding me? You couldn’t even talk about Hillary Clinton in the Swannie House (Wiles’ bar). They were besides themselves…
I really think the Democratic Party took a position against the regular people’s intelligence. Because — you sit in the Swannie House and maybe you should even talk to everybody — the intelligence level is incredible and they actually insulted a lot of people’s intelligence. They went to the level that was lowest.
Are you talking about Clinton’s “basket of deplorable” comment?
It was very insulting. It was absolutely insulting. It was horrible. And these people are like — I see it daily. Because my customers are very, very bright.
Do you think your life will change in any way?
He’s going to get rid of the illegal immigrants — he’s adamant about that. I think he’s going to make businesses better. I really think he’s going to get rid of NAFTA, which was wrong. I want him to get rid of NAFTA for sure. I want him to get rid of illegal immigrants. If you’re an illegal immigrant, you’re not here doing good things. I really think he’s right here. Those are the two big things that he’s going to go after and I think he’s going to win.
Safiya Mohamud: Voted for Clinton
Mohamud works at her sister’s store at the Karmel mall in Minneapolis, Minnesota. She was born in Somalia and came to the United States as a refugee in 2000. She used to be a Democrat, but when we spoke to her several months ago, she said she was undecided. Still, she definitely did not want to support Trump.
Who did you vote for?
I did decide who to vote for and it was Hillary. Oh well, she didn’t win. I thought she would be the better candidate than Trump… The main thing was to go out there and vote… There’s nothing to do about it.
I always used to for Democrat and … I thought that maybe a Republican might be better this time but seeing what Trump was saying, I decided to vote for her.
Why did you vote for Clinton?
It’s because of what Donald Trump was saying about the Muslims and other races … I was always a Democrat and this time I was thinking of changing and seeing what else is out there. But I guess that didn’t happen and I ended up voting for a Democrat.
What was your reaction to Trump winning?
Disappointed. Surprised… In the morning, I got up and found out that he was the President-elect. So, more power to him.
Do you think as president, Trump will affect your life?
I really liked the speech that he did when he was President-elect. He sounded better than when he was campaigning. Right now we just have to sit back and see what is happening and how he thinks. But as of now — maybe you don’t know how to feel. He hasn’t done any action.
Why do you think Clinton lost?
I have no idea. I don’t know… I have no idea. Now they are saying they have to recount some states, that something was happening… I was really, really surprised because everybody said that she would be the president of the United States of America.
Do you think there was there anything Clinton could have done better?
She did everything, everything that she could do. It’s just my luck, that’s it.
Are you worried for the Muslim community?
As I said — if (Trump says) he’s going to do all those horrible things … then I would be worried. But right now, we don’t know yet what’s happening. So we’re just sitting down and see what happening and what’s going on.
Steven Ziller: Voted for Trump
CNN met Ziller, a 48-year-old farmer from Belmond, Iowa, in January, when he was deciding between Trump and Ted Cruz during the primaries. He voted for Cruz. Then, in the general election, Ziller was torn between Trump and Clinton until the second he cast his ballot. He is a Democrat-turned independent who twice voted for Obama.
Why did you decide to vote for Trump?
The emails of Clintons scared me a little bit. I just didn’t — I guess it was more of a trust thing than anything. I don’t know. I wish we had a third choice — a better third choice. I had to go with Trump because I thought he was a businessman. He’s got some flaws.
So the emails was your biggest problem with Clinton?
I thought the debates were fairly even. I watched all three of them… The emails, I just — it just didn’t — made me a little nervous I guess. Like she was hiding something. Just going by what I see on TV.
Was it a close call between Trump or Clinton? You said you hesitated?
It was down to the wire. When I was in the voting booth, I still didn’t know. I walked in. When I sat there, I kind of thought for a minute and then I went with Trump.
What pushed you in that split second to vote for Trump?
It seemed like he was in Iowa more than Hillary. It didn’t seem like she came to Iowa very much after the primary… To answer the question, I guess the trust — who I trusted more. And it wasn’t by much. It was by a hair.
How do you think Trump being president will affect your life?
Depends on if he can get China to quit buying our corn. Corn prices have dropped by half in the last couple of years and I don’t know if he’s really going to do that or not.
Do you have any concerns or worries about a Trump presidency?
I’m a little nervous, to be honest. I don’t know what’s going to happen. I don’t know whether we’ll have bombings — I don’t know. I’m nervous. I personally — my gut feeling is, he might not go four years.
I golf. I golf with some of my friends. We were golfing after the election. Trump owns quite a bit of golf courses. I wonder if he realizes that he can’t just golf now — his lifestyle is totally, totally different. He just can’t play 18 holes and do whatever he wants.