The position of first lady is generally seen as an uncontroversial post despite the relative popularity of the sitting president. While these women have traditionally maintained pet projects, such as Nancy Reagan’s drug abuse prevention effort, they tend to shy away from divisive issues that would turn public sentiment against them.
With the ascension of the Obamas, however, that paradigm has effectively shifted. While Barack Obama has feverishly sought out new and disturbing ways to increase the power of a central government, his wife, Michelle, has been close on his heels with her dedication to a federal takeover of virtually all things nutritional.
A recent Gallup poll dissected her current approval numbers and, though she fared well compared to her unpopular husband, the current first lady falls far short of her two most recent Republican counterparts.
Nearly eight in 10 respondents reported a favorable opinion of Barbara Bush, while her daughter-in-law, Laura Bush, received 73 percent support in the poll. One-quarter of those polled have a negative view of Michelle Obama, however, with just 66 percent of the respondents signaling their approval.
Of course, her approval numbers are heavily skewed toward those in her political party. Ninety-two percent of Democrats have a favorable opinion of the first lady, which represents four percent more support than the party gives the president. Just over four in 10 Republicans support Michelle; however, that result is 25 percentage points higher than Barack’s support among members of the GOP.
Despite her failure to connect with as many Americans as her most recent Republican compeers, Michelle Obama continues to maintain a dizzyingly active media appearance campaign with the apparent goal of taking the focus off of her husband’s disastrous performance as president.
From her perspective, at least one silver lining remains: her comparative popularity compared to the most recent Democrat first lady, Hillary Clinton. Just over half of those polled expressed a favorable opinion of Clinton; though her political pursuits since leaving the White House have undoubtedly affected her results.
Even as first lady, though, Clinton championed the unpopular idea of socialized medicine that the Obama administration was able to force into fruition.
Michelle Obama’s popularity reached a high of 72 percent early in her husband’s presidency and has remained fairly steady since with the expressed support of about two-thirds of those polled. During the second Obama term, however, it seems both she and her husband are taking an even more active role in expanding the purview of the federal government.
As time progresses, Americans are much better suited to determine the success or failure of policies enacted by our leaders. Given her continued insistence that she knows best what free citizens should be allowed to eat, it will be interesting to see how she fares through the lens of historical perspective.
—B. Christopher Agee
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