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Now, Michelle Obama too is sliding in the polls

December 28, 2009 |  1:44 am

Michelle HulaHoopHarazGhanbariap

She's on vacation now in Hawaii, so what does she care?

But as the first calendar year of the new White House regime draws to a close, First Lady Michelle Obama is experiencing the same drop in poll numbers as her husband. She's not elected, of course, and not charged at least officially with making the tough executive decisions that come out of the Oval Office.

As a result, first ladies have typically fared better in different public opinion polls than their more controversial husbands. And now even as the female Harvard lawyer in the family and the one with the famously buff arms, Mrs. O still remains somewhat more popular than her spouse.

(Sarah Palin's favorable poll ratings, btw, have risen steadily in recent months to the mid-40s. But although neither woman holds an elected office, that's something entirely different.)

A new Rasmussen Reports survey finds that 55% of Americans have at least a somewhat favorable opinion of Mrs. Obama. That's down 7 points, or 11%, since November's survey and it's her lowest approval level since holding the Bible for her Democratic husband, Barack, to take the oath of office on that cold D.C day back on Jan. 20.

Her approval rating is perhaps more interesting than other first ladies because she played such an active and sometimes controversial role in her husband's $750-million campaign and has taken on some high-profile assignments during her husband's early months in ...

... the Oval Office. This includes leading the Chicago delegation to Copenhagen this fall in its unsuccessful bid to host the 2016 Summer Olympics and persuading her husband to make a plea there too.

Neither Obama is running for any office in next fall's crucial midterm elections, of course. But declining approval rates for both could indicate not only a general falling out of love with the couple but further electoral trouble for Democratic campaigns during double-digit unemployment and an increasingly unpopular war in Afghanistan.

Mrs. Obama's highest approval since Rasmussen began monitoring the first lady's public standing last winter was 67% and her previous low was 57%. Fewer than 1 in 3 Americans (31%) now regard her very favorably.

Thirty-seven percent now regard her unfavorably (17% somewhat unfavorably and 20% very unfavorably). Previous unfavorables ranged from 35% to 24%.

Eighty-five percent of Democrats in the monthly Rasmussen study of the first lady approve of her in that role, 43% of independents and only 33% of Republicans. Women approve of Mrs. Obama much more than men do, but women also see her as more involved in administration policy decisions.

The national telephone survey of 1,000 likely voters was conducted on Dec. 20 and 21, and has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.

Rasmussen Reports does daily tracking polls of the president's approval. Late last week that Tracking Poll found only 25% of Americans strongly approved of Obama's work as president, while 46% strongly disapproved.

By Rasmussen's method, that gives Obama a minus-21 approval index, the largest gap, meaning greatest disapproval, since he took office with such great hope and promise.

-- Andrew Malcolm

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Photo: Obama at an autumn physical fitness event. Credit: Haraz Ghanbari / Associated Press

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