Correction to This Article
In the Nov. 5 Style section, the TV Column incorrectly reported that the live "debate" between candidates on NBC's "The West Wing" would air at 6 p.m. Mountain time. It was taped for broadcast at 7 p.m. in that time zone.

Real Numbers for Fictional Candidates

Alan Alda and Jimmy Smits, duking it out for president on
Alan Alda and Jimmy Smits, duking it out for president on "The West Wing." (By Mitchell Haddad -- Associated Press)

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By Lisa de Moraes
Saturday, November 5, 2005

Viewers want Jimmy Smits to become the next leader of the United States, pollster Zogby International said on the eve of Smits's live faux presidential debate with Alan Alda on "The West Wing."

On the other hand, viewers think Alda's character is more "presidential," and far better suited for the Oval Office.

Only they'd rather not leave their child with him in an emergency.

Though they'd vote for Alda if he ever ran for elected office in real life.

Scarily, 99.8 percent of these people are registered voters.

Democratic Rep. Matthew Santos -- that's Smits -- would pound Republican Sen. Arnold Vinick -- Alda -- if regular "West Wing" viewers got to vote in tomorrow night's faux election, with 59 percent of the popular vote compared with 29 percent for Vinick.

Sadly, 12 percent said they'd vote for someone else. (Who, people? It's a TV show! And, by the way, it isn't really shot in the Oval Office.) hired Zogby to conduct the poll. Forrest Sawyer, playing himself, will moderate as Smits and Alda square off at 8 p.m. tomorrow for the show's East Coast feed (7 p.m. Central, 6 p.m. Mountain time). They'll do it all over again live for viewers on the West Coast at 8 p.m. Pacific time.

Ironically, when those polled were asked if they would support one of the actors if he ran for public office in real life, just 36 percent said they would vote for Smits; 44 percent would vote for Alda.

Now -- here's where you need to be sitting -- a majority of respondents (57 percent) said they would more likely support Smits's character because of his political philosophy. Only 26 percent said they would support him because they thought he was better suited to run the country. A majority (52 percent) said they would be more likely to support Alda's character because he's "more presidential."

Only 20 percent of "West Wing" voters who participated in the poll said they'd feel safe leaving their child with Alda's Sen. Vinick if an emergency came up and they had to run an errand, compared with 58 percent who'd feel comfortable leaving Junior with Smits's Rep. Santos.

And, when asked which of the two candidates better represents their views on health care and prescription drugs, Social Security, abortion, race relations, international relations and terrorism, at least one-third of respondents said they were not sure.

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© 2005 The Washington Post Company

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