Every year the Harris polling firm asks Americans to rate the prestige of various careers. Scientist came out as #2, only 1 percentage point behind firefighter. We'll see if that offers any consolation if (sigh, when) the Western blot I'm doing right now fails.
I would love to know why there aren't more scientists involved in public policy. Rush Holt, a congressman from New Jersey, is a physicist, and Bill Foster, also a physicist, was recently elected to replace Dennis Hastert, but I think that's pretty much it in terms of people with science training in national politics. Of course, one could use the same poll to wonder why there aren't more firefighters and nurses in public policy either (interestingly, Member of Congress comes in at 28%, while lawyer, which is probably the plurality discipline of most Congressmen, is 24%).
I suppose one explanation is that scientists are mousey people who couldn't carry on a conversation if their lives depended on it, and besides, their pasty skin makes them quite un-camera-friendly. While that is true of some scientists, it is certainly not a requirement for entry into the profession, and at least from my observations, most scientists certainly pass the 'beer test' because they have a helluva lot of practice in drinking the stuff.