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Americans think ‘West Wing’ is most realistic political TV show: poll

More than half of Americans say they believe “The West Wing,” Aaron Sorkin’s dramatic portrayal of earnest public servants debating public policy as they walk endlessly through the halls of the White House, is a realistic depiction of what happens in Washington, a new poll has found.

The survey, conducted by Ipsos, found that 51 percent of Americans said the show was very or somewhat realistic, including 71 percent of those who said they were aware of the show — that is, those who watched it.

The series told the story of President Josiah Bartlet’s administration through the eyes of his chief of staff, press secretary and other top advisers. People between the ages of 35 and 54, those of prime viewing age when the show aired for seven seasons beginning in 1999, were most likely to say its portrayals were realistic.

Just more than a quarter of Americans, 27 percent, said they thought the HBO comedy series “Veep” was realistic, the poll found, including 52 percent of those who said they were familiar with the show. About the same number, 25 percent, said the show was not very or not at all realistic.

The poll did not include subsamples of current or former congressional or White House staffers, who might have said they recognized their own experiences in the foibles of Vice President-turned-President Selina Meyer and her bumbling staff.

Americans are more likely to say they believe shows such as “House of Cards,” “Scandal,” “The Good Wife” and “24” are realistic; between 41 percent and 45 percent say those shows are very or somewhat realistic, and more than 60 percent of those who are aware of the shows say the same. Forty-six percent said they believed the Téa Leoni vehicle “Madam Secretary” was realistic.

Younger Americans warm more to “Parks and Recreation,” the warm-hearted comedy about an office of public servants in Pawnee, Ind., who campaign for years to build a new park on the site of a former construction pit. Fifty-two percent of those between the ages of 18 and 34 said the lives of Leslie Knope and her fellow workers was realistic, though far fewer people in older generations said the same.

Overall, 33 percent of Americans said they believed that cable news does the best job portraying the reality of the way American government works and the lives of those who operate it, while 29 percent said television shows based on politics do a better job.

The Ipsos poll surveyed 1,000 adults over the age of 18 on March 18 and 19. The survey carried a margin of error of 3.5 percentage points.

Tags House of Cards Scandal The West Wing Veep

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