4/16: A New Era for First Ladies?

Nearly three months after her husband assumed the highest office in the land, a plurality of Americans — 44% — thinks Michelle Obama represents change for the better as First Lady of the United States.  Just 4% have a negative impression of Mrs. Obama in her new role, and 31% feel Michelle Obama has yet to make her mark.



Looking at party lines, not surprisingly, Democrats most appreciate the change. 72% of Democrats think Mrs. Obama is having a positive effect on the role of first lady.  And, although far fewer Republicans — 20% — see her as changing things for the better, few — 7% — believe she has set things back.

Younger voters and women are more positive towards Michelle Obama than are their counterparts.  Half of Americans under 45 years old and the same proportion of women say Mrs. Obama is improving the post of first lady.  That’s compared with 39% of residents 45 years of age and older and only 36% of men.

Table: Impact on Role of First Lady

Striking a Balance

Michelle Obama has made it clear that she is an advocate for balancing work and family life, and 41% of U.S. residents agree she is improving the way people view that balance.  Just 4% believe she has hindered understanding of the issue, and 35% report that she has not yet influenced the public’s perspective.

Again, Democrats are in her corner.  64% of Democrats think Michelle Obama is drawing positive attention to the issue of work-life balance compared with 33% of Independents and 25% of Republicans who feel this way.

Table: Impact on Work Family Balance

Fashion Forward First Lady?

Jacqueline Kennedy was probably the first lady best known for making a mark on the fashion world.  So, is Michelle Obama having a similar impact?  While 36% of Americans say that she is changing fashion for the better, a majority feels either her influence is yet to be felt in the fashion world, or they’re just not sure what the future holds.  However, the sexes differ here.  44% of women compared with only 29% of men see Mrs. Obama as taking fashion to new heights.

Table: Impact on Fashion

Imitation Is the Sincerest Form of Flattery

Although, Michelle Obama is her own person, Americans do have an opinion about which first lady they would like her to take after.  21% of Americans would like Mrs. Obama to walk in the tradition of Jacqueline Kennedy.  18% would like to see her personify Eleanor Roosevelt, and 16% want her to typify Hillary Clinton.

There is a bit of a generation gap here.  One quarter of residents under the age of 45 years old believes Michelle Obama should take her cue from Hillary Clinton.  20% believe Jacqueline Kennedy was the picture of a first lady while 15% see Nancy Reagan as the ideal.  Looking at those 45 years or older, Jackie Kennedy and Eleanor Roosevelt take the top spots with 23% and 21%, respectively.

Table: Follow Tradition of Which Former First Lady?

Marist Poll Methodology

Related Links:

The White House

National First Ladies Library