America Votes for the Best 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.
|Winning Candidate||State 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)
President David Palmer (24)
President Fitzgerald Grant III (Scandal)
President Thomas Wilson (2012)
President Laura Roslin (Battlestar Galactica)
President Selina Meyer (Veep)
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.
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.
Did your state pick your favorite fictional president? Feel free to share this link to start a friendly debate on your Facebook feed.
|State||Winning Candidate||Film/TV Show|
|Alabama||President James Marshall||Air Force One|
|Alaska||President Thomas J. Whitmore||Independence Day, Independence Day: Resurgence|
|Arizona||President James Marshall||Air Force One|
|Arkansas||President Thomas J. Whitmore||Independence Day, Independence Day: Resurgence|
|California||President James Marshall||Air Force One|
|Colorado||President James Marshall||Air Force One|
|Connecticut||President James Marshall||Air Force One|
|Delaware||President Josiah "Jed" Bartlet||The West Wing|
|District of Columbia||President James Marshall||Air Force One|
|Florida||President Thomas J. Whitmore||Independence Day, Independence Day: Resurgence|
|Georgia||President Thomas Wilson||2012|
|Hawaii||President Thomas J. Whitmore||Independence Day, Independence Day: Resurgence|
|Idaho||President Thomas J. Whitmore||Independence Day, Independence Day: Resurgence|
|Illinois||President David Palmer||24|
|Indiana||President James Marshall||Air Force One|
|Iowa||President Thomas J. Whitmore||Independence Day, Independence Day: Resurgence|
|Kansas||President James Marshall||Air Force One|
|Kentucky||President David Palmer||24|
|Louisiana||President Fitzgerald Grant III||Scandal|
|Maine||President Josiah "Jed" Bartlet||The West Wing|
|Maryland||President Thomas Wilson||2012|
|Massachusetts||President David Palmer||24|
|Michigan||President Fitzgerald Grant III||Scandal|
|Minnesota||President James Marshall||Air Force One|
|Mississippi||President David Palmer||24|
|Missouri||President David Palmer||24|
|Montana||President Josiah "Jed" Bartlet||The West Wing|
|Nebraska||President James Marshall||Air Force One|
|Nevada||President Thomas J. Whitmore||Independence Day, Independence Day: Resurgence|
|New Hampshire||President Thomas J. Whitmore||Independence Day, Independence Day: Resurgence|
|New Jersey||President James Marshall||Air Force One|
|New Mexico||President Thomas J. Whitmore||Independence Day, Independence Day: Resurgence|
|New York||President Josiah "Jed" Bartlet||The West Wing|
|North Carolina||President Fitzgerald Grant III||Scandal|
|North Dakota||President David Palmer||24|
|Ohio||President James Marshall||Air Force One|
|Oklahoma||President Thomas Wilson||2012|
|Oregon||President Josiah "Jed" Bartlet||The West Wing|
|Pennsylvania||President Selina Meyer||Veep|
|Rhode Island||President Thomas Wilson||2012|
|South Carolina||President Fitzgerald Grant III||Scandal|
|South Dakota||President Josiah "Jed" Bartlet||The West Wing|
|Tennessee||President Thomas J. Whitmore||Independence Day, Independence Day: Resurgence|
|Texas||President Thomas J. Whitmore||Independence Day, Independence Day: Resurgence|
|Utah||President Laura Roslin||Battlestar Galactica|
|Vermont||President Josiah "Jed" Bartlet||The West Wing|
|Virginia||President James Marshall||Air Force One|
|Washington||President Laura Roslin||Battlestar Galactica|
|West Virginia||President Thomas J. Whitmore||Independence Day, Independence Day: Resurgence|
|Wisconsin||President Fitzgerald Grant III||Scandal|
|Wyoming||President Thomas J. Whitmore||Independence Day, Independence Day: Resurgence|
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.
- Reviews.org, proprietary survey data, conducted via Pollfish, September 2020.
- Wikipedia, “List of Actors Who Played the President of the United States,” Accessed September 20, 2020.
- Britannica, “United States Electoral College Votes by State,” Accessed September 20, 2020.
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.