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Michelle Obama tops hubby Barack in popularity, new poll finds, but...

July 8, 2009 |  2:22 am
CupofCoffeeCropd

And now some politically/socially revealing numbers from a plethora of polls:

While her husband's popularity takes a summertime dip, First Lady Michelle Obama's favorability ratings among Americans climb high.

According to a new online Harris Poll of 2,177 Americans, after nearly six months of an Obama administration, more than two-thirds (68%) give her a thumbs-up while less than one-third (32%) disapprove. In comparison, after nearly six years in the White House Laura Bush had a 64% approval and a 36% disapproval.

This compares with President Obama's recent ratings in a similar Harris Poll showing his popularity dipping from 59% to 54% while his disapproval rose from 41% to 46%. On the economy Michelle's partner fared even worse, with just 43% now approving of his handling of the economy and 57% disapproving.

That's understandable. Starting a White House vegetable garden and telling schoolchildren to work hard for good grades while being a poised fashion icon is somewhat less controversial than the president trying to explain a national unemployment rate soaring past the maximum his administration precisely predicted last winter, despite billions in stimulus spending.

Three-quarters of Americans (77%) think the first lady is a positive influence on her husband; 84% of women think so while 69% of men agree. But even a majority of....

... Republicans (53%) think that, while Democrats are nearly unanimous on that question (94%).

However, the White House, which had Mrs. Obama actively announce millions in economic stimulus spending last week, might want to be careful mixing her up with policy initiatives a la Hillary Clinton. Very few (9%) think the unelected first lady should have a lot of influence over government policy (14% of Democrats, 8% of independents and 5% of Republicans). Back in 2006, 13% thought that was a good idea.

In other numerical revelations, just 4% of Americans say that Wall Street or credit card companies are honest or trustworthy. A majority of young people still approve of Obama's job performance, but a majority of seniors over 64 now don't (54%). Maybe they'll (that is, we'll) all die before the next election.

Interestingly, in the crucial battleground state of Ohio, Obama's approval rating has plunged  to 49% since May, down 13 points, according to Quinnipiac. The same outfit found the approval of Democrat Gov. Ted Strickland, a prominent Obama campaigner last year, has fallen to 46%, just four points higher than his disapproval the year before a re-election bid.

Up through May a growing number of Americans felt the country was starting to move in the right direction. That month 44% thought things were heading right, while 56% disagreed. A North Korean Soldier does not like his picture being takenBut something happened in the next month -- perhaps all the spending talk and deficit clouds spooked them -- because by June those answering right track slipped to 43% and those saying wrong track inched up to 57%.

On foreign affairs, a new BBC News World America/Harris Poll finds only one in five Americans (21%) are confident that Pakistan can defeat the Taliban within its borders. Only a few more (28%) believe that Pakistan's nuclear arsenal is safe, as that government claims.

Not that any seems likely from the Obama administration, but three out of four Americans want no direct U.S. intervention in Iran's recent democratic struggles and fatal protests.

And a majority of Americans (52%) say that North Korea is a very serious threat to American security, with three out of four believing that rogue land has missiles that could reach the United States.

Another poll finds Americans are finally buying into the Obama-Biden refrain about this being the worst economic times since the Great Depression.

Some 62% have taken to buying more generic brands to save money, 47% now take lunch to work, 36% get fewer haircuts, 29% have trimmed magazine subscriptions, 20% dry-clean less and a surprising one in five (19%) have stopped buying morning coffee en route to work (see photo above of 80% of a cup of coffee).

On the upside for Verizon, AT&T, Sprint and talking, fully 54% have not changed their cellphone service or even considered that to save money. Some things remain sacred even in the worst times since the 1930s, which was even before Joe Biden became a senator in preparation for the busy vice presidency.

-- Andrew Malcolm

In other poll news, 100% of those clicking here got Twitter alerts for each new Ticket item. While others follow here @latimestot

Photo: A North Korean soldier expresses displeasure over a camera aimed at him. Credit: Associated Press.

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