Many Americans think TV shows about politics accurately reflect real life

West Wing is seen as the most realistic TV show, while VEEP is seen as the least realistic by the public.

The author(s)

  • Chris Jackson Senior Vice President, US, Public Affairs
  • Jocelyn Duran Account Manager, US, Public Affairs
  • Sarah Feldman Senior Data Journalist, US, Public Affairs
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Washington DC, March 21, 2022– Overall, Americans feel that TV shows about politics accurately portray real life. In particular, the public feels West Wing is the most realistic show about politics, more so than other series about politics, like VEEP and Parks and Rec. Age does play a role in the perceived realism of these shows. Americans under 35 are more likely to feel that newer shows, like VEEP and Parks and Rec, are more realistic than their older counterparts do. Cable News and TV shows split the public when it comes to what does a better job portraying a realistic picture of how the American government and the people in it work.

Detailed Findings:

The public feels West Wing is more realistic than comedies, like VEEP and Parks and Rec.

  • From our list of shows, the West Wing has the highest number of Americans who believe it is realistic (51% of all Americans). VEEP has the lowest (27%).
  • For the most part, more people believe these shows are more realistic than not. The comedies (VEEP and Parks and Rec) were generally less likely to be seen as realistic.
  • Age plays a role in whether people feel these shows are realistic. People under 35 are much more likely to feel that newer shows, like VEEP and Parks and Rec, are more realistic than people in the older age group.
    • About half of all people under 35 (52%) feel that Parks and Rec is a realistic show, compared to 44% of those 35-54 and 23% of people 55+. By comparison, 47% of people under 35 feel West Wing is realistic, compared to 59% of people 35-54 and 47% of people 55+.

The public is split on whether Cables News or TV shows based on politics portray a more realistic picture of how the American government really works and the people in it.

  • When asked if Cable News or TV shows based on politics were a “more realistic portrayal of how American government really works and the people in it”, the public is pretty evenly split, with about a third saying News (33%), TV shows (29%), and neither (31%).

For more information about this study, contact:

Chris Jackson
Senior Vice President
Public Affairs
[email protected]

About This Study

These are some of the findings of an Ipsos poll conducted on March 18-19, 2022. For this survey, a sample of 1,000 adults age 18+ from the continental U.S., Alaska, and Hawaii was interviewed online in English. The sample includes 300 18-34 year olds, 350 35-54 year olds and 350 55+ year olds.

The sample was randomly drawn from Ipsos’ online panel, partner online panel sources, and “river” sampling and does not rely on a population frame in the traditional sense. Ipsos uses fixed sample targets, unique to each study, in drawing a sample. After a sample has been obtained from the Ipsos panel, Ipsos calibrates respondent characteristics to be representative of the U.S. Population using standard procedures such as raking-ratio adjustments. The source of these population targets is U.S. Census 2019 American Community Survey data. The sample drawn for this study reflects fixed sample targets on demographics. Posthoc weights were made to the population characteristics on gender, age, race/ethnicity, region, and education.

Statistical margins of error are not applicable to online non-probability polls. All sample surveys and polls may be subject to other sources of error, including, but not limited to coverage error and measurement error. Where figures do not sum to 100, this is due to the effects of rounding. The precision of Ipsos online polls is measured using a credibility interval. In this case, the poll has a credibility interval of plus or minus 3.5 percentage points for all respondents. Ipsos calculates a design effect (DEFF) for each study based on the variation of the weights, following the formula of Kish (1965). This study had a credibility interval adjusted for design effect of the following (n=1,000, DEFF=1.5, adjusted Confidence Interval=+/-5.0 percentage points).

The poll also has a credibility interval of plus or minus 3.5 percentage points for all respondents, +/- 7 for the age subgroups.

About Ipsos

Ipsos is the world’s third largest market research company, present in 90 markets and employing more than 18,000 people.

Our passionately curious research professionals, analysts and scientists have built unique multi-specialist capabilities that provide true understanding and powerful insights into the actions, opinions and motivations of citizens, consumers, patients, customers or employees. We serve more than 5000 clients across the world with 75 business solutions.

Founded in France in 1975, Ipsos is listed on the Euronext Paris since July 1st, 1999. The company is part of the SBF 120 and the Mid-60 index and is eligible for the Deferred Settlement Service (SRD).

ISIN code FR0000073298, Reuters ISOS.PA, Bloomberg IPS:FP www.ipsos.com

The author(s)

  • Chris Jackson Senior Vice President, US, Public Affairs
  • Jocelyn Duran Account Manager, US, Public Affairs
  • Sarah Feldman Senior Data Journalist, US, Public Affairs

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