The Spouses

Aug 24, 2008 6:13pm

Conservatives and Republicans will be eyeing Michelle Obama with some skepticism when she addresses the Democratic National Convention on Monday evening – more than liberals and Democrats express about Cindy McCain. But both are reasonably popular, with substantial numbers of Americans waiting to learn more.

Fifty-one percent of registered voters express a favorable opinion of Michelle Obama in the latest ABC News/Washington Post poll, while 30 percent view her unfavorably; the rest, 19 percent, haven’t formed an opinion. For Cindy McCain, it’s 47 percent favorable, 20 percent unfavorable, with more, a third, yet to make a judgment.

The 10-point difference in their unfavorable ratings is a partisan one. Fifty-seven percent of conservatives and 48 percent of Republicans view Michelle Obama unfavorably; fewer Democrats or liberals (33 and 28 percent) hold an unfavorable opinion of Cindy McCain.

It likely doesn’t matter much. Assessments of the presidential candidates, not their wives, drive vote preferences. But presumably views of the spouses can contribute in some way to ultimate assessments of the candidates themselves.

Like their husbands, each, of course, appeals most to her party’s base: Obama’s most popular among African-Americans, Democrats and liberals, McCain among Republicans and conservatives. Their ratings are little changed from two months ago.

Favorable ratings for Obama and McCain are higher than they were for Teresa Heinz Kerry in 2004 and Laura Bush in 2000; the spouses this year are better known.

                      Favorable   Unfavorable   No opin.Michelle Obama 8/08      51%          30          19Cindy McCain 8/08        47           20          33

Teresa Heinz Kerry 7/04  27           26          47Laura Bush 8/04          66           15          19 Laura Bush 6/00          35            7          57Tipper Gore 6/00         60           17          23Elizabeth Dole, 9/96     51           16          33Hillary Clinton 8/92     44           28          28 (‘00 polls by Gallup)

In an ABC/Post poll last December, 16 percent of registered voters said they give a “great amount” of weight to the candidates’ spouses in deciding whom to support for president. That compares with 66 percent who said they give a great amount of weight to the candidates’ stands on the issues, 59 percent to their personal qualities and 54 percent to their professional abilities.

And by the way, check out our new full election poll – a good roadmap to the conventions.

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