The Corner

Politics & Policy

First Ladies and Their Approval Ratings

first lady Melania Trump delivers remarks at the launch of her Be Best initiatives in the Rose Garden of the White House, May 7, 2018. (Kevin Lamarque/Reuters)

Michelle Malkin’s column on First Lady Melania Trump notes that her approval rating has jumped ten points since January in CNN’s polling. It’s now at 57 percent.

The last three first ladies, counting Melania, have all been more popular than their husbands. At this stage in George W. Bush’s presidency, Laura Bush was polling in the 70s according to Gallup. (At that point, less than a year after the September 11 attacks, his popularity was that high too.) Michelle Obama had a 66 percent approval rating in July 2010.

Hillary Clinton, on the other hand, had a higher approval rating than her husband only in the aftermath of his sex scandal with Monica Lewinsky, when she was seen as a victim. Her approval rating in April 1994 was a Melania-like 56 percent, comparable to her husband’s. It would soon drift lower.

Tentative theory: A lot of Americans who normally think well of first ladies who seem relatively apolitical disliked Hillary Clinton because of the overt role she took in her husband’s administration. The next three first ladies have taken the hint. But during the last three presidencies polarization has increased, and a steadily rising percentage of the president’s opponents have been registering disapproval of his spouse as well.

Ramesh Ponnuru — Ramesh Ponnuru is a senior editor for National Review, a columnist for Bloomberg Opinion, a visiting fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, and a senior fellow at the National Review Institute.

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