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The Better Halves

As Americans wade through the glut of information about the presumptive presidential nominees of each party, they also get to know the candidates' better halves. A new Washington Post-ABC News poll shows both Cindy McCain and Michelle Obama hold net positive favorable ratings, but many have yet to form opinions on either potential first lady.

About half view Obama favorably, including 42 percent of men, 54 percent of women and 66 percent of Democrats. Republicans (30 percent favorable) and independents (44 percent) are less positive, Republicans due to much higher negative perceptions (50 percent unfavorable) and independents because of a larger bloc of undecideds (28 percent). About a quarter of all adults have no opinion.

Obama could be the nation's first black first lady, and nearly nine in 10 African American women view her positively. About half of white women, a far less Democratic group, share a positive outlook. Like her husband, Obama appeals to younger women (64 percent favorable among those under age 45) more than their elders (44 percent among women age 65 and over), but enjoys mostly positive reviews from both married and single women. About half of those who backed Clinton in the primaries have a positive view. Self-described feminists are also in Obama's corner: 60 percent have a favorable view of her.

Fewer Americans express an opinion about Cindy McCain, who, with the GOP nomination battle wrapped up in early March, spent less time on the primary campaign trail than Michelle Obama did. More than a third have not yet formed an opinion of McCain, but nearly four in 10 express a positive view. Republicans (62 percent favorable) are far more likely than Democrats (29 percent) or independents (35 percent) to say they have a favorable opinion of McCain, and as with Michelle Obama, for different reasons. Democrats are more apt to view McCain negatively (37 percent unfavorable) while four in 10 independents have no opinion on her.

There's less of a gender gap in sizing up McCain, 37 percent of men and 40 percent of women see her favorably. But unlike Michelle Obama, she is more positively viewed among married women (44 percent favorable), than single women (35 percent favorable). Just 25 percent of black women view McCain positively, 44 percent of white women do.

Support for a candidate, however, does not necessarily translate into support for his wife. Just 56 percent of John McCain's supporters have a favorable view of Cindy McCain, while about three-quarters of Barack Obama backers have a positive take on his wife.

Looking at assessments of husband and wife together, 44 percent of adults have a favorable view of both Obamas, 21 percent take the negative view on both. For the McCains, 31 percent see both husband and wife in a positive light, 18 percent view both negatively.

A Pew Research Center poll released yesterday also finds more people familiar with Michelle Obama than with Cindy McCain, but goes one step further to explore the tenor of news coverage about the two women. About half of those who have heard at least something about each say the coverage has been a mix of positive and negative, but reports about Obama are more likely to be seen as negative than those about McCain.

Among those who have heard news coverage on Obama, about a quarter say it has been mostly negative. Slightly fewer, 21 percent, said they've seen mostly positive coverage of the Illinois senator's wife. Coverage of Cindy McCain, by contrast, is perceived as being far more positive. Just 7 percent said most of what they have seen about her has been negative and 31 percent report it's been mostly favorable.

By Jennifer Agiesta  |  June 18, 2008; 7:00 AM ET
Categories:  Post Polls  
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Next: Post-Primary Views of Clinton

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