The world of politics is an unforgiving one but while many people are disengaged in politics, when it comes to political dramas the ratings are high and the presidents we see on the small screen are more popular than those in reality.
According to a new poll by Reuters-Ipsos, the majority of the American public had an unfavourable view of President Obama, this was in stark contrast to television president David Palmer from the hit TV series “24”, with 89 percent of Americans having a favourable opinion of him.
President Barack “no drama” Obama is known for his cool and cautious style of leadership and while 54 percent had an unfavourable opinion of him, 46 percent found him favourable, so it was not all bad in the polls for the current president.
However, he and future presidents may want to take a leaf out of the books of fictional presidents if they want to win in the polls.
One of the most popular television presidents was found to be Jed Bartlet of the “West Wing”, played by Martin Sheen. Bartlet was given an 82 percent favourable rating and the show is known to be a favourite, especially among Democrats, with even White House staff citing the show.
On the darker side we have “Battlestar Galactica” on SyFy, with president Laura Roslin, played by Mary McDonnell. She gained a 78 percent favourable rating among fans of her quest to find earth and escape the Cylons, a race of humanoid killer robots.
According to a report by Reuters, with Americans sharply divided along partisan lines, it is unlikely that any real-life president could achieve sky-high favourability 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.
But real life presidents do not have all the benefits of their TV counterparts and are not trained actors, unlike Ronald Regan who managed to combine the two with great success.
“His media people would say how great it was that he always hit his marks,” said Troy, who was a top domestic policy adviser in Republican George W. Bush’s administration.
And even difficult TV presidents appear to be loved by the public, including Frank Underwood from “House of Cards”.
Kevin Spacey plays the ruthless politician who ends up killing a congressman and a journalist but still 57 percent of those in the poll said they held a favourable opinion of him.
Even President Obama himself admitted to liking Underwood. “This guy’s getting a lot of stuff done,” Obama quipped during a December 2013 White House photo-op with Reed Hastings, Netflix’s chief executive according to Reuters.
“I wish things were that ruthlessly efficient,” Obama said.