If you can draw conclusions about your fellow Americans by who they vote for, imagine how much you can know about them by what presidential movies they like, which actors portraying presidents they prefer, and who should be moderating our debates.
We conducted a survey of 501 voters and found that Hollywood is still coming up far short on creating memorable female presidents, Samuel L. Jackson would make a good (zombie) war-time president, and one thing Republicans and Democrats can agree on is we need a second President Ford. President Harrison Ford.
Here’s a glance at our ever-surprising electorate:
The right (fictional) man (but not so much woman) for the job.
We asked which fictional president would earn their vote should they be on the ballot instead of President Obama and Governor Romney. Choices ranged from Martin Sheen as Jed Bartlett in The West Wing, to Bill Pullman as President Thomas J. Whitmore in Independence Day, and Cherry Jones as President Alison Taylor in 24:
- Across party lines and all but one region of the country (the southwest is Morgan Freeman country), our voters selected Harrison Ford as President James Marshall from Air Force One with 23% of the total vote. Republicans and Romney supporters heavily favored Ford.
- Democrats and Obama voters also chose Ford, but Morgan Freeman, as President Beck from Deep Impact, was a close second with 19%.
- Third place, with 9% of the vote, went to Bill Pullman as President Whitmore in Independence Day. Considering President Whitmore helped lead a successful revolt against an alien invasion and saved the entire world, this might just prove Americans really are more interested in domestic rather than foreign policy.
- Of all the potential fictional presidents offered, the three female candidates (Cherry Jones in 24, Geena Davis in Commander in Chief and Mary McDonnell in Battlestar Gallactica in their presidential roles) came in last. And yet, while voters were hesitant to elect a fictional female president, they very open to electing a female in one extreme case…
While Geena Davis might have played the hyper-competent President Mackenzie Allen on ABC’s short-lived Commander in Chief, it seems she wasn’t memorable enough to garner votes as a choice fictional president. But when it came to electing a fictional character to lead humanity back from the brink of zombie-induced extinction, one woman, Milla Jovovich in Resident Evil got plenty of votes…but sadly, she still lost to hyper-cool Samuel L. Jackson:
- Samuel L. Jackson, from Snakes on a Plane, is the preferred president elect when it comes to zombie apocalyptic crises, with 19%. Obama supporters strongly favored Jackson, at 23%.
- Milla Jovovich, from Resident Evil, was a close rational second (her character, after all, did effectively—and entertainingly—combat zombies in the Resident Evil franchise) with 18%. She got more votes from registered Independents (22%) than any candidate.
- Tom Cruise, from War of the Worlds, was right behind her at 17%. Romney supporters and undecided voters opted for Cruise most, at 16% and 24% respectively.
Jackson’s a curious choice, having experience solely in removing snakes from a plane—especially when pitted against zombie-slayer extraordinaire Jovovich—but to be fair, Samuel L. has had some of the most legendary catch phrases in cinematic history, which serves as a good reminder: (campaign) slogans count, people! And in case you were wondering, pretty much no one thinks Lena Dunham from Girls would make for a good zombie-apocalypse hero (no matter how apathetically dead-on-the-inside her romantic partners might appear on her show.)
Okay, but what actor would you cast as President, and why?
When we let our voters choose from any actor, it was neck-and-neck between arguably two of the most likable stars of their generations:
- Denzel Washington won with 7.4% of the vote. Not surprisingly, the ladies love Denzel, with 62% of his votes coming from women. Denzel voters cast him as a Democrat, and voted for him because he’s trustworthy, honest, cool, and has gravitas.
- Morgan Freeman was a close second at 7.2%. Freeman’s no slouch with the female vote himself, earning 53% of his total from women. He was supported because of his honesty, voice (case in point: Shawshank Redemption, March of the Penguins) intelligence and integrity.
- Clint Eastwood was tied for third along with Harrison Ford, and was strongly preferred by Republicans, moderates and Romney supporters, and men (he earned 65% of his votes from male voters.) Clearly recognized as a Republican, voters who chose Clint liked him because he’s no nonsense, has been a mayor (of Carmel, California), would get things done, and, perhaps a little too tellingly, he “has balls” and inexplicably would “make my day!” (Dirty Harry usually said that to people he was about to shoot in the face, but we digress.)
- As for female candidates, though many were cited, including Andie MacDowell, Angela Bassett, Ellen DeGeneres, Emma Watson [perhaps as a magical President Hermione Granger?], Meryl Streep, Oprah, Sandra Bullock, and Tina Fey, only Oprah received more than one write in vote.
- And finally, a few write-in candidates suffer from one major political hurdle—they’re dead. They were Charlton Heston, Gregory Peck, Henry Fonda and John Wayne.
- Pauly Shore (yes, we’d like to think because of his legal finesse in Jury Duty) scored one awesomely lone write in.
When it came to asking about their favorite film about a president…
The partisan divide was clear:
- Democrats and Obama supporters preferred Oliver Stone’s 1991 kinetic conspiracy film JFK, with 22% of the vote.
- Republicans and Romney supporters favored Rob Reiner’s 1995 romantic comedy The American President, with 24% voting for the Michael Douglas-led pic as widowed President Andrew Shepherd.
- Female voters preferred JFK (23%), followed by Jonathan Demme’s 2004 version of The Manchurian Candidate (18%), which is interesting, as in the film a female senator (Meryl Streep) does whatever it takes (including, spoiler alert, brainwashing her son) to attain presidential power.
- Also worth noting: Republicans and Romney voters really didn’t like Oliver Stone’s W., which notched just 1%.
Who says subtlety, or accuracy, matters?
When we asked our voters which actor portrayed a real president most accurately, the leading vote getter was, well, pretty shocking:
- Robin Williams, as Teddy Roosevelt from Night at the Museum, netted 15% of the vote. This despite the fact that Williams was playing a wax model of our 26th president that magically came to life and generally spoke in macho axioms.
- Second place was split between Josh Brolin as George W. Bush from Oliver Stone’s W., and Gary Sinise as Harry S. Truman in HBO’s Truman, with 13%.
- Republicans and Romney supporters loved Williams as Roosevelt, at 17%.
- Democrats and Obama supporters preferred Josh Brolin’s take on George W. Bush in W., at 15%.
A moderator with the most.
Should the public be able to choose a presidential or vice presidential debate moderator, the choice was clear:
- Jon Stewart was the widely preferred choice overall, doubling up over the competition with 22% of the vote.
- Tina Fey and Stephen Colbert shared second place, at 11%.
- Not surprisingly however, it was Democrats and Obama supporters leading the charge for Stewart – 25% and 28% compared to just 13% and 16% for Republicans and Romney voters.
- In fact, Republicans would have preferred to see Will Ferrell (16%) moderate over Jon Stewart (13%)