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What? Michelle Obama isn't America's favorite first lady?

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Nancy Reagan is remembered for the admonition to American kids to “Just say no” to drugs, while Clinton is associated with international women’s and girls’ issues (that is, once Americans get past the Clinton presidency’s health-care debacle).

The other first ladies since 1974 – Betty Ford, Rosalynn Carter, and Barbara Bush – all came in under 10 percent.

Despite taking the red second-place ribbon, Mrs. Obama clocks a favorable 60 percent approval rating among Americans over all.

Often in such ratings the current “office holder” takes top prize, aided by current events and name recognition. “In any poll of the ‘best’ and ‘worst’ presidents, for example, the recent ones always come in at the top of the list,” Professor Watson says.

Male voters shy away from Michelle

But the poll suggests that Obama may have been denied the blue first-place ribbon by American men, who give her considerably lower marks than women. While women overall give Obama the top prize at 20 percent, nearly a quarter (24 percent) of American men choose Nancy Reagan as their favorite first lady.

Obama, whose husband faced a deficit among male voters in the 2008 election, lags behind Reagan, Clinton, and Laura Bush with only 8 percent of the male vote.

“Part of the problem for Michelle Obama is that the folks who don’t like her husband really don’t like her husband, and so they are not about to like her, either,” he says. But Obama’s overall high marks reflect wide approval of how she has made herself “Mom in chief,” as Watson says.

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