WASHINGTON, March 23, 2015:
Whether it’s the earnest Josiah Bartlet from The West Wing or the manipulative Frank Underwood in House of Cards, Americans prefer television presidents to their real-life POTUS, President Barack “No Drama” Obama.
A Reuters-Ipsos poll taken this month found 54% of Americans held an unfavourable opinion of Obama, known for his cool and cautious presidential style, while 46% were favorable.
In contrast, asked to imagine that David Palmer of 24 was president, 89% of those who had seen the real-time Fox counterterrorism drama said they held a favourable rating of the decisive president played by Dennis Haysbert.
Martin Sheen’s Jed Bartlet of The West Wing — beloved by Democrats, including many who work in Obama’s White House — was rated favourably by 82% of its NBC viewers.
In the dark universe of Battlestar Galactica on SyFy, president Laura Roslin, played by Mary McDonnell, drew a 78% favourable rating among fans of her quest to find earth and escape the Cylons, a race of humanoid killer robots.
With Americans sharply divided along partisan lines, it is unlikely that any real-life president could achieve sky-high favorability ratings, said Tevi Troy, a presidential historian and author of What Jefferson Read, Ike Watched, and Obama Tweeted, a study of popular culture in the White House.
“Pretty much half the country is going to be predisposed against you just because that’s the way we line up with Republicans and Democrats,” Troy said.
Unlike fictional presidents, with their camera-ready looks and perfect timing, real-life presidents sometimes fumble.
Morally challenged fictional presidents also topped Obama’s favourability ratings in the Reuters-Ipsos poll.
Of those who watch ABC’s steamy drama Scandal, 60% had a favourable view of Fitzgerald “Fitz” Grant, the philandering, scotch-swilling president played by Tony Goldwyn.
In House of Cards, Underwood, played by Kevin Spacey, kills a passed-out congressman by leaving him in a running car in a garage, and pushes a journalist into the path of a subway train.
Imagining Spacey’s scheming character as president, 57% of respondents who have seen the Netflix political thriller said they held a favourable opinion of him.
Even Obama likes Underwood.
“I wish things were that ruthlessly efficient,” Obama said.
Seventy-six percent of Americans had an unfavorable view of Putin, according to the poll, while 24% were favourable.
To explore the related Reuters/Ipsos polling: http://bit.ly/1xmXXdB