HERBERT KNOSOWSKI /AP / FILE
As the Obama presidency nears the 100 day mark, a new survey shows first lady Michelle Obama is even more popular than her husband.
Topping Barack Obama’s personal favorability ratings is not easy. A new report from the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press found 73 percent of Americans hold a favorable view of the President. Even 46 percent of Republicans say they have a favorable view of him, while 96 percent of Democrats hold Obama in high personal esteem.
“This is a president who the base really likes,” says Andrew Kohut, Director of the Pew Research Center. He was the guest at a Monitor-sponsored breakfast for reporters on Thursday.
Michelle Obama is now viewed favorably by 76 percent of the public -- up from 68 percent in early January. That gives her a personal favorability rating above the President’s and makes her substantially more popular than her predecessors, according to Pew data. At a roughly comparable time in their husband’s presidency, Laura Bush had a favorable rating of 64 percent and Hillary Clinton 60 percent.
Michelle woos GOP women
Much of the increase in Mrs. Obama’s popularity has come from Republicans, particularly Republican women, Kohut said. Some 67 percent of Republican women now have a favorable view of Mrs. Obama, a gain of some 21 points since January.
“She has kind of taken the country by storm,” Kohut said. Classy, nice, intelligent, and strong were the descriptions most frequently used by poll respondents when talking about Mrs. Obama. She was rarely described in ideological terms, according to the Pew survey, with only one person in 765 calling her liberal.
Mr. Obama’s popularity gives him “a lot of capital” for his political goals, Kohut said. But there could be trouble on the horizon. “After a while he will begin to own the economic problems. Right now people say he hasn’t made things worse.... But if things don’t get better for a protracted period or if things get worse, especially with unemployment, he will begin to be seen as a problem,” Kohut said.
The survey was conducted April 14-21 among 1,507 adults. Margin of error and other technical details are available at www.people-press.org. The poll’s findings offer little cheer to Obama’s Republican opposition in Congress. “The Republicans are at a very low ebb,” Kohut said. “Twenty-eight percent of the public approves of the [GOP] congressional leadership, the lowest rating we have gotten about them since the mid 90’s.” The non-partisan pollster added that “most people say they have no idea who the leader of the Republican Party is, including the Republicans themselves.”
When asked what in the new survey might offer encouragement to Republicans, Kohut noted the high level of “reservations about many of the specific things that Obama is saying he wants to do to fix the economy. So far he has got a fair amount of cover because he represents hope. I think the other thing for the Republicans, however, is to somehow fashion a positive message and not only a negative message."