Americans prefer fictional TV presidents over Obama – survey

U.S. President Barack Obama,Kevin Spacey.(Reuters / Kevin Lamarque /Phil McCarten)
Judging by the results of a recent poll, US President Barack Obama may want to become an actor after his presidential term expires if he really wants to achieve sky-high ratings as a leader.

Although Obama may resort to a teleprompter when speaking his lines to the American people, that seems to be where the similarities between the Democratic leader and the scripted, made-for-television presidential leaders ends.

A Reuters-Ipsos poll taken this month showed 54 percent of Americans have an unfavorable opinion of real-life leader Obama, while 46 percent were favorable.

READ MORE: More than half of US voters want a fresh-faced Democrat in 2016 presidential race

Compare that rather humble figure with that of Martin Sheen's character Jed Bartlet of ‘The West Wing’ who got a thumbs up by 82 percent of its NBC viewing audience.

Even less-than-respectable fictional leaders came out ahead of Obama.

For viewers of ABC's intrigue-filled ‘Scandal’, 60 percent said they liked Fitzgerald ‘Fitz’ Grant, the womanizing, alcohol-drinking president played by Tony Goldwyn.

Meanwhile, Frank Underwood, the ruthless character played by Kevin Spacey in ‘House of Cards’, also beat Obama, although by a narrow margin. Fifty-seven percent of respondents who have watched the political show said they held a favorable opinion of Underwood.

For those not familiar with the Netflix head of state, Underwood is portrayed as ruthlessly pragmatic, doing whatever it takes to grab and hold on to his power.

“Even his marriage to his wife, Claire Underwood, is probably calculated: she came from a wealthy family, he was just gearing up for his first congressional campaign, and he needed the money,” the National Journal explained in a review of the series last year.

READ MORE: More Americans say Obama ‘not tough enough’ on foreign policy - poll

Even Obama seems enamored by Spacey’s character. "This guy's getting a lot of stuff done," Obama told Reed Hastings, Netflix's chief executive, during a White House visit in December 2013.

"I wish things were that ruthlessly efficient," Obama added.

According to Tevi Troy, a presidential historian and author, few American presidents are going to score highly in opinion polls due to the realities of a two-party system that lacks outside voices.

"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 told Reuters.

However, Obama may take comfort that 76 percent of Americans contacted in the poll - held from March 5 to 19 - reported an unfavorable view of Russian President Vladimir Putin, while 24 percent were favorable.