WASHINGTON — The public hasn't taken to Michelle Obama yet, especially whites. And it's got a question about Cindy McCain: Who is she?
People are divided over whether they like the wife of Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama, with 30 percent seeing her favorably and 35 percent unfavorably, according to an Associated Press-Yahoo News poll released Wednesday.
They tilt positively toward the spouse of Republican hopeful John McCain, by 27 percent to 17 percent.
In other words: While the two women are about equally liked, Michelle Obama is twice as disliked as Cindy McCain.
"Cindy seems like she's laid back and not trying to run her husband," said Linda Kaiser, 60, a Republican and church secretary from Clairton, Pa. "It's nice to have a brain, but they should let their husband be president."
Whites have an unfavorable view of Michelle Obama by 18 percentage points, while eight in 10 blacks like her. That is reminiscent of how Barack Obama fared in the Democratic primaries against Hillary Rodham Clinton.
In the AP-Yahoo News poll, whites saw Cindy McCain positively by 17 points, while one in eight blacks like her.
Michelle Obama does better with unmarried people and college graduates but is viewed poorly by people age 65 and up. Cindy McCain is seen more favorably by older people, those who are married and the more affluent, but she is less well-received by singles.
Video: Is the role of first lady changing? Cindy McCain is also more of a mystery. Nearly six in 10, or 56 percent, said they know too little to say much about her — exceeding the 34 percent clueless about Michelle Obama. Half of Republicans say they don't know Cindy McCain, while three in 10 Democrats say that about Michelle Obama.
Barack Obama's wife seems to incite stronger feelings. One in five had very negative views of her, triple the number who said so about John McCain's wife. One in 10 had very favorable views of Michelle Obama, double Cindy McCain's number.
"She's African-American, she's highly articulate, she's young and she seems highly devoted to her husband and her family," said Edythe Friley, 61, a retired teacher from Detroit. "She serves as a role model. There's not a parent on planet Earth who wouldn't want a daughter like this."
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Michelle Obama has been in the spotlight more than Cindy McCain, including stories on whether she was trying to reshape her image.
Michelle Obama, 44, a lawyer and hospital administrator, took flak in February when she said she was proud of her country "for the first time in my adult life." Cindy McCain, 54, heiress to an Arizona beer distributorship, revealed in May that she earned more than $6 million in 2006 after saying she would never release her income tax returns.
The AP-Yahoo News survey of 1,759 adults was conducted from June 13-23 and had an overall margin of sampling error of plus or minus 2.3 percentage points. Included were interviews with 844 Democrats and 637 Republicans, for whom the margins of sampling error were plus or minus 3.4 points and 3.9 points, respectively.
The poll was conducted over the Internet by Knowledge Networks, which initially contacted people using traditional telephone polling methods and followed with online interviews. People chosen for the study who had no Internet access were given it for free.
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