WASHINGTON -- Barack Obama's approval ratings are good. Michelle Obama's are better.
In a USA TODAY/Gallup Poll taken Monday and Tuesday, 79% say they approve of the way Michelle Obama is handling the job of first lady. Just 8% disapprove.
To compare, her husband's rating in the Gallup Poll released Thursday is 65% approval, 29% disapproval — undeniably a healthy rating. Even so, asked about her stronger showing, senior White House adviser David Axelrod jokes, "Fortunately, she's agreed not to run against us."
What's more, while the president's rating shows a sharp partisan divide — Democrats overwhelmingly approve of him but most Republicans don't — Michelle Obama's appeal crosses party lines. Almost every Democrat expresses approval, 94%-1%. Even among Republicans, her approval rating is 64%-17%.
At the White House on Thursday, Michelle Obama told children of White House staffers visiting for Take Your Child to Work Day that she has "the best job in the White House."
"I get to do things like come and talk to you guys and go out to schools and plant a garden and go visit military families," she said. "So I think it's a lot of fun, the job that I have."
Michelle Obama's standing isn't a record for a president's wife, but it's close. (The question has been asked only occasionally.) The highest approval rating for a first lady in modern times was Laura Bush's approval rating of 85% in January 2005, and Hillary Rodham Clinton, now secretary of State, scored an approval rating of 80% in February 1999.
However, Nancy Reagan, Rosalynn Carter and Pat Nixon never got as high as 60%, and Eleanor Roosevelt's best rating was 68% in February 1940.
The poll of 1,051 adults, by land line and cellphone, has a margin of error of +/–3 percentage points.