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Melania Trump's Image Less Positive Than Other Spouses

Melania Trump's Image Less Positive Than Other Spouses

Chart: data points are described in article

PRINCETON, N.J. -- Melania Trump -- Slovenian-born supermodel, jewelry designer, philanthropist, mother and, most famously, wife of Donald Trump -- appears to have attracted some of her husband's baggage leading up to the Republican National Convention. A new Gallup poll completed just before the start of the convention finds 28% of Americans viewing her favorably, 32% viewing her unfavorably and 40% unsure. The latter includes 25% who have heard of Trump but have no opinion of her and 15% who say they have never heard of her.

Americans' Overall Opinion of Melania Trump
Favorable Unfavorable No opinion/Not heard of
% % %
U.S. adults 28 32 40
Whites 32 25 43
Nonwhites 18 48 33
Men 50+ 40 19 41
Men 18-49 30 36 34
Women 50+ 30 33 38
Women 18-49 15 38 48
Republican 48 13 40
Independent 22 33 46
Democratic 17 50 33
July 13-17, 2016

The demographic pattern in views toward the potential first lady is highly similar to her husband's. She is better liked by whites, older Americans, men and, of course, Republicans. By extension, using Gallup's gender/age categories, Melania Trump fares best with men aged 50 and older and worst with women aged 18 to 49.

In contrast with Trump's slightly negative overall image, more Republicans view her favorably (48%) than unfavorably (13%), while Democrats' views are about the opposite. Independents lean slightly negative, with 33% viewing her unfavorably versus 22% favorably. However, large percentages of each group are not yet familiar enough with Trump to rate her -- something she undoubtedly hopes her primetime speech at the Republican National Convention Monday evening will help change.

Right now, Melania Trump's debut favorable ratings, based on a poll conducted July 13-17, make her among the least well-known and least well-liked of all potential first ladies Gallup has measured over the years.

In terms of familiarity going into her husband's convention, Trump is more familiar to Americans than just two other candidates' wives. The combined 60% who are familiar enough with Trump to offer an opinion of her exceeds the 42% found for Laura Bush in 2000 (measured well before that year's convention) and 50% for Teresa Heinz Kerry in 2004. In each case, their husbands were seeking the presidency for the first time, and thus the women were relative newcomers to the national political stage.

Three other wives of new presidential nominees were slightly better-known before their husband's nominating conventions: Anne Romney in 2012 (66%), Cindy McCain in 2008 (67%) and Elizabeth Dole in 1996 (69%). The most well-known newcomers among potential first ladies were Hillary Clinton in 1992, familiar to 81% of Americans, and Michelle Obama in 2008, known by 78%.

The only other potential first lady achieving this level of familiarity was Tipper Gore in 2000, known to 75%. However, Gore had been in the public eye long before her husband's presidential campaign, given his eight years as vice president and her campaign to have warning labels added on music albums that contained explicit lyrics.

Americans' Views of Potential First Ladies
Based on latest pre-convention measure available each election year
Favorable Unfavorable Total have opinion Total no opinion
% % % %
Hillary Clinton (1992) 55 26 81 19
Michelle Obama (2008) 53 25 78 22
Tipper Gore (2000) 57 18 75 25
Elizabeth Dole (1996) 51 18 69 31
Cindy McCain (2008) 47 20 67 33
Ann Romney (2012) 42 24 66 34
Melania Trump (2016) 28 32 60 40
Teresa Heinz Kerry (2004) 31 19 50 50
Laura Bush (2000) 34 8 42 58
Ranked by total % having an opinion of each

In terms of her image, Melania Trump has the worst favorable ratings of any prospective first lady Gallup has measured since 1992. Her -4 net favorable score is significantly lower than the next-lowest one: Teresa Heinz Kerry's +12. Almost all other prospective first ladies were viewed favorably by more than a third of Americans and unfavorably by a quarter or less.

Americans' Views of Potential First Ladies
Based on latest pre-convention measure available each election year
Favorable Unfavorable Net favorable
% %
Tipper Gore (2000) 57 18 +39
Elizabeth Dole (1996) 51 18 +33
Hillary Clinton (1992) 55 26 +29
Michelle Obama (2008) 53 25 +28
Cindy McCain (2008) 47 20 +27
Laura Bush (2000) 34 8 +26
Ann Romney (2012) 42 24 +18
Teresa Heinz Kerry (2004) 31 19 +12
Melania Trump (2016) 28 32 -4
Ranked by net favorable (% favorable minus % unfavorable)

Melania Trump's favorable ratings do have one precedent -- Hillary Clinton in August 1996. At that time, just before President Bill Clinton was re-nominated by the Democratic Party and four years after the public was first introduced to her, Hillary Clinton's image was split at 47% favorable and 48% unfavorable.

Gallup has relatively limited trends updating prospective first ladies' images over the course of campaigns, but the available data show that all these wives' images did improve after their husband's nominating convention. Americans grew more familiar with them and more warm in their ratings toward them. Melania Trump has the opportunity Monday to create the same improvement in her own ill-defined, somewhat negative image.


Lydia Saad is the Director of U.S. Social Research at Gallup.

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