I've often wondered how much our media actually sways public perception.
To take an example, consider the TV series "West Wing", which ran from from 2000 - 2007. This was during most of the Bush administration.
In the series, the president (played by Martin Sheen) was powerful, smart, compassionate, and likeable. The character was a Nobel Prize laureate in economics(*), and pretty-much the pinnacle of personal achievement.
For comparison, note that Dennis Kucinich brought 35 articles of impeachment against Bush at the end of his term, including taking the country into war for no just cause.
(I don't bring this up to cast aspersions on the man or party, only to show that there was widespread disapproval with some justification at the time.)
I can't help but wonder if peoples' perception of the president's actions were somehow biased because of the "West Wing" series. It was highly popular, and the character of the president (in the series) was one who garnered a lot of respect.
Would the public have been less tolerant of Bush without "West Wing" running concurrently with his term?
I wonder what other effects that TV and entertainment might have on the population. Does everyone's view of police stem from CSI, Hawaii 5-0, and Hill Street Blues? We see all the time how police risk their lives to protect the innocent, for example... on TV. Do people use their TV viewing as the basis for their assessment of reality?
(*) And in one particular moment during the show, someone asked the president about NAFTA and whether opening up free trade would hurt America, and Martin Sheen (as the president) stated something like "every economist thinks it would be to our benefit".