America Votes for the Best Fictional President

We polled Americans to figure out which fictional president would win an election.
Map of every state's favorite fictional president.

What do you look for in a president? Sure, the ability to give dramatic speeches and enact policies that elevate American lives is great and all, but can it compete with the ability to fly planes, knock out terrorists, or fight off aliens?

We asked Americans which presidents from TV shows and movies they’d vote for in the upcoming election. Turns out, Americans like action-oriented pilots who can deliver a darn good speech and show compassion for human life.

Winner: President James Marshall (Air Force One)

“Peace isn’t merely the absence of conflict, but the presence of justice.”

Given their choice of fictional presidents, Americans would elect President James Marshall from the 1997 film Air Force One. The fictional favorite picked up 124 electoral votes from 13 states.

Harrison Ford is known for his action-oriented roles, and playing the commander-in-chief was no exception. President James Marshall looks danger straight in the face and says, “Get off my plane!” after saving America and his family from murderous terrorists.

Throughout the film, James Marshall puts his life on the line while showing compassion, gratitude, and love for others. He evades the enemies with smart tactics and hand-to-hand combat, makes difficult life-and-death decisions, and even escapes incoming fighter jets while flying Air Force One.

It wasn’t his first time in the air protecting people either. Before becoming president, James Marshall received a Medal of Honor for his heroics as a helicopter rescue pilot during the Vietnam War. (Harrison Ford’s real-life piloting skills may be questionable. He’s had some aviation issues over the years.)

Between his inspiring words and actions and his desire to do the right thing despite politics, President James Marshall has the qualities that make for a great leader. Good pick, America.

Runner-up: President Thomas J. Whitmore (Independence Day)

“We will not go quietly into the night! We will not vanish without a fight! We’re going to live on. We’re going to survive. Today we celebrate our Independence Day!'”

Although he didn’t win the electoral count to become the president in our fictional election, President Thomas J. Whitmore from the sci-fi blockbuster Independence Day won the same number of state votes as James Marshall. The former fighter pilot played by Bill Pullman stands out for his ability to unite the world and take direct action against all odds.

After aliens invade, the president hangs back instead of evacuating, staying to lead the American people. Before he leads the dogfight in the air against the aliens with the threat of annihilation looming, he busts out one of the most memorable presidential speeches in movie history. (Even real-life President Trump paid a strange homage on Twitter to the fictional president’s speech, apparently to Pullman’s dismay.)

Popular votes (total state wins)

As Americans well know, the Electoral College vote determines the presidential election winner. But still, looking at the state breakdowns makes it a little more fun to see who America loves.

Number of Winning States by Fictional Candidate
Winning CandidateState Votes
President James Marshall (Air Force One)13
President Thomas J. Whitmore (Independence Day, Independence Day: Resurgence)13

President Josiah "Jed" Bartlet (The West Wing)
7

President David Palmer (24)
6

President Fitzgerald Grant III (Scandal)
5

President Thomas Wilson (2012)
4

President Laura Roslin (Battlestar Galactica)
2

President Selina Meyer (Veep)
1

James Marshall won the states where it counts the most, which gained him nearly fifty more electoral votes and the win. But at the state level, James Marshall and Thomas J Whitmore tied.

In another electoral upset, more states would pick Josiah “Jed” Bartlet from The West Wing, but the Electoral College ranks David Palmer (24) and Fitzgerald Grant III (Scandal) ahead of Jed.

Info Box icon
Why can’t America elect a (fictional) female president?
“In war, you can only get killed once. In politics it can happen over and over.” — President Linda Roslin, Battlestar Galactica

Despite picking up wins in Utah, Washington, and Pennsylvania, the two female candidates fell to the bottom of our rankings. Battlestar Galactica’s Laura Roslin and Veep’s Selina Meyer won 38 electoral votes combined.

The big winners came from big movies (Air Force One and Independence Day), making it more likely that someone can see the president’s leadership in a single sitting and recognize them. But other series like 24, Scandal, and The West Wing also received higher rankings; they all featured male presidents.

“‘Well, I’m a political leper, and I’m an emotional time bomb. So here’s an idea: let’s put me onstage.” — Selina Meyer, Veep

Hopefully, we’ll see better political representation for everyone on- and off-screen in the coming years.

Every state’s favorite fictional president

James Marshall won the big state of California, which helped secure his win in the electoral votes. Thomas J. Whitmore grabbed high numbers in Florida and Texas. And Josiah “Jed Bartlet snagged New York’s 29 votes.

Map of every state's favorite fictional president.

Did your state pick your favorite fictional president? Feel free to share this link to start a friendly debate on your Facebook feed.

Winning Candidate by State
StateWinning CandidateFilm/TV Show
AlabamaPresident James MarshallAir Force One
AlaskaPresident Thomas J. WhitmoreIndependence Day, Independence Day: Resurgence
ArizonaPresident James MarshallAir Force One
ArkansasPresident Thomas J. WhitmoreIndependence Day, Independence Day: Resurgence
CaliforniaPresident James MarshallAir Force One
ColoradoPresident James MarshallAir Force One
ConnecticutPresident James MarshallAir Force One
DelawarePresident Josiah "Jed" BartletThe West Wing
District of ColumbiaPresident James MarshallAir Force One
FloridaPresident Thomas J. WhitmoreIndependence Day, Independence Day: Resurgence
GeorgiaPresident Thomas Wilson2012
HawaiiPresident Thomas J. WhitmoreIndependence Day, Independence Day: Resurgence
IdahoPresident Thomas J. WhitmoreIndependence Day, Independence Day: Resurgence
IllinoisPresident David Palmer24
IndianaPresident James MarshallAir Force One
IowaPresident Thomas J. WhitmoreIndependence Day, Independence Day: Resurgence
KansasPresident James MarshallAir Force One
KentuckyPresident David Palmer24
LouisianaPresident Fitzgerald Grant IIIScandal
MainePresident Josiah "Jed" BartletThe West Wing
MarylandPresident Thomas Wilson2012
MassachusettsPresident David Palmer24
MichiganPresident Fitzgerald Grant IIIScandal
MinnesotaPresident James MarshallAir Force One
MississippiPresident David Palmer24
MissouriPresident David Palmer24
MontanaPresident Josiah "Jed" BartletThe West Wing
NebraskaPresident James MarshallAir Force One
NevadaPresident Thomas J. WhitmoreIndependence Day, Independence Day: Resurgence
New HampshirePresident Thomas J. WhitmoreIndependence Day, Independence Day: Resurgence
New JerseyPresident James MarshallAir Force One
New MexicoPresident Thomas J. WhitmoreIndependence Day, Independence Day: Resurgence
New YorkPresident Josiah "Jed" BartletThe West Wing
North CarolinaPresident Fitzgerald Grant IIIScandal
North DakotaPresident David Palmer24
OhioPresident James MarshallAir Force One
OklahomaPresident Thomas Wilson2012
OregonPresident Josiah "Jed" BartletThe West Wing
PennsylvaniaPresident Selina MeyerVeep
Rhode IslandPresident Thomas Wilson2012
South CarolinaPresident Fitzgerald Grant IIIScandal
South DakotaPresident Josiah "Jed" BartletThe West Wing
TennesseePresident Thomas J. WhitmoreIndependence Day, Independence Day: Resurgence
TexasPresident Thomas J. WhitmoreIndependence Day, Independence Day: Resurgence
UtahPresident Laura RoslinBattlestar Galactica
VermontPresident Josiah "Jed" BartletThe West Wing
VirginiaPresident James MarshallAir Force One
WashingtonPresident Laura RoslinBattlestar Galactica
West VirginiaPresident Thomas J. WhitmoreIndependence Day, Independence Day: Resurgence
WisconsinPresident Fitzgerald Grant IIIScandal
WyomingPresident Thomas J. WhitmoreIndependence Day, Independence Day: Resurgence

Methodology

We took a list of fictional presidents from Wikipedia and narrowed them down to candidates who played essential roles in their respective films or TV shows.

(In other words, we crafted a shortlist of fake presidents who made a positive difference in their fictional worlds, but some of your personal favorites might be missing.)

With our shortlist, we surveyed Americans 18 and over to determine which fictional president they would most likely vote for. The survey had a sample error of ± 4.5 percent and a 95% level of confidence.

In states where there were not enough respondents to make a fair determination, or in the event of a tie, we still picked a winner. We weighed the top candidates in the state’s respective US census region against high search intent for the film or television show the fictional president appears in using Google Trends.

We then sourced the number of electoral college votes per state from Britannica. We applied each state’s popular vote to the electoral ballet to determine which fictional president would ultimately win the election, assuming all votes from the electoral college coincided with the popular vote.

Sources

This survey was conducted by Reviews.org and is in no way sponsored, endorsed, administered by, or associated with any of the properties listed above or their affiliates.