Good Question: Do Voters Expect The President To Be Funny?

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — We expect to see a sitting President do news conferences, and interviews with “60 Minutes,” but slow jamming the news on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon? That’s what President Barack Obama did the other night.

So, do voters really expect the President to be funny?

“I don’t like it. To me it’s like when a parent tries to be a friend rather than a parent to their child in order to be the “cool mom” or “cool dad”. Show the office a little respect,” wrote Jen Dolan on Facebook.

But Josh Ackerman, disagreed, writing: “it makes them Human. I think that Obama on Fallon was to grab his audience for votes. It also makes then reachable. Normally we just see them and fell like they are “above” us and out of reach.”

Since 1960 when then Senator John F Kennedy went on Jack Paar’s Tonight Show, Presidential candidates have been all over late-night TV.

But Barack Obama is the first sitting president to do late night TV — when he appeared on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno in 2009.

“The reality is voters are so turned off from politics, they’re going where the voters are,” said Larry Jacobs, professor of political science at the University of Minnesota’s Humphrey School for Public Affairs. “So, if you’re able to come off as a nice guy, someone you want to watch basketball with, that goes a long way. And Barack Obama is working that very hard.”

Jacobs said that American voters want their Presidents to be “exceptional and the common man,” and while likeability isn’t the only factor, it is an important factor.

“It could be right or wrong, but the reality is, many voters vote their gut,” he said.

President George W. Bush came across more likeable than his opponents, the same is true with President Bill Clinton, said Jacobs

The last “unlikeable” candidate elected President, he said, was probably Jimmy Carter, “who came across like a stern preacher.”

Jacobs said in today’s climate, already, nearly 85 percent of voters know if they’ll be voting for Obama or Republican Mitt Romney (who’s also appeared on Late Show with David Letterman).

“The presidents are going to where the voters, the undecided, up for grab, they’re the folks watching late night TV,” he said. “There’s absolutely a risk the president will look unpresidential and won’t be taken seriously, but they have to find a way to reach voters.”

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