Just 46% of Americans hold a favorable opinion of President Obama, while 54% give him a thumbs down, according to a Reuters-Ipsos poll taken this month. In marked contrast, 57% of respondents approved of Netflix’s House of Cards POTUS Frank Underwood, despite (or maybe because of) — old spoiler alert! — his having killed a congressman by leaving him passed out in a running car and pushed a journalist into the path of a subway train.
Meanwhile, 89% held a favorable view of 24’s POTUS David Palmer, despite his torture tactics, besting Jed Bartlet of The West Wing, who was rated favorably by 82% of the show’s viewers. Not far behind, and also faring better than Obama, was POTUS Laura Roslin from Battlestar Galactica, with her 78% approval rating.
Yes, it’s a silly poll. And yes, it helps explain why presidents need to take their message to Jimmy Kimmel Live, The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon, The Colbert Report and Between Two Ferns.
In all seriousness, people are stupid. Not because they don’t approve of Obama in greater numbers — they just don’t know much about how our system of government works. Polls say that too.
An Annenberg poll released last fall, for instance, found only 36% of Americans could name all three branches of the government and 35% couldn’t name any of them. That poll also found more than 60% of Americans don’t know which political party controls the House of Representatives and the Senate. Among the more disheartening findings, more than 70% of Americans don’t know a two-thirds vote of both the House and Senate is required to override a presidential veto, and 21% of people think a 5-4 Supreme Court decision is sent back to Congress for a final decision.
In the people’s defense, even Obama approves of Underwood. “This guy’s getting a lot of stuff done,” the real POTUS said during a December 2013 White House photo-op with Netflix CEO Reed Hastings. “I wish things were that ruthlessly efficient,” Obama added.