AUTHORS' NOTE: We thank Susan J. Carroll, Rutgers University, for her discussant comments on this project.
Polls and Elections: From Hillary to Michelle: Public Opinion and the Spouses of Presidential Candidates
Article first published online: 11 JAN 2011
© 2011 Center for the Study of the Presidency
Presidential Studies Quarterly
Volume 41, Issue 1, pages 156–176, March 2011
How to Cite
BURRELL, B., ELDER, L. and FREDERICK, B. (2011), Polls and Elections: From Hillary to Michelle: Public Opinion and the Spouses of Presidential Candidates. Presidential Studies Quarterly, 41: 156–176. doi: 10.1111/j.1741-5705.2010.03835.x
- Issue published online: 11 JAN 2011
- Article first published online: 11 JAN 2011
This study analyzes public opinion data on would-be first ladies during the presidential campaign season from 1992 to 2008. By comparing attitudes toward would-be first ladies over the last five presidential cycles, we identify key areas of stability and change in Americans' attitudes toward these individuals. Additionally, survey data are used to explore how attitudes about these women differ across key demographics, to identify factors that shape the public's attitudes concerning presidential candidates' wives, and to explore the impact of these women on their husbands' favorability ratings. The results indicate that spouses who embody the traditional role of first lady tend to be more popular, while spouses who assume an active role in advocating policy, such as Hillary Clinton, garner less support. Most candidate spouses generate highly polarized reactions along partisan lines, although more traditional spouses evoke a less divisive response.