First lady receives higher popularity rating than president

Breanne George

Democrats and Republicans can agree on one thing – they both like first lady Laura Bush.

According to a recent CNN/USA Today/Gallup Poll, 73 percent of Americans have a positive opinion of the first lady. The same poll indicated that only 46 percent of Americans approve of President George W. Bush.

“Mrs. Bush is a very popular first lady with the American people, even when you reach back into history and compare her with other prominent first ladies,” said Matthew White, president of the College Republicans. “She is a woman with strong, clear ideas and causes that she’s been willing to champion.”

Laura Bush stands by her husband and does not put herself in the spotlight. Many left-leaning students at Kent State have a positive opinion of her, despite their negative feelings toward the president.

First ladies are often more popular than presidents because they take on a symbolic role for the country.

“They (first ladies) get to pick and choose the issues they deal with, and they are usually civic-minded issues,” said Thom Yantek, associate professor of political science. “The president is the one who has to deal with the nitty-gritty.”

“People don’t see her as a threat because she hasn’t made any political assertions,” said Amanda John, senior integrated sciences major, who is a member of the Kent State Anti-War Committee. “How do you hate that Doris Day type?”

“The Democratic Party expects aggressive women as first ladies,” said Margaret Stambaugh, president of the College Democrats. “Laura Bush has so much to offer, I wish she would step it up a bit.”

Hillary Clinton, unlike most first ladies, used her position to get involved in major issues. She had her lowest approval rating when she started to focus on health care reform.

“Hillary did not fulfill the traditional role. She became an empowered woman,” Yantek said. “She had a lower approval rating because certain sectors of the population are intimidated by that.”

More and more nations have female heads of state, but Yantek said he believes the United States is “retrograded in that respect.”

“She (Bush) represents traditional values – she’s a school teacher, wife and mother,” Yantek said. “Her approval rating says a lot about our culture.”

Contact student politics reporter Breanne George at [email protected].