Why Melania Trump is unpopular

It’s the jacket.  Kidding.  Of course, the jacket was obviously absurd, offensive, and remarkably tone-deaf, but Melania has long been much less popular than other recent first ladies.  So, when not working on ground-breaking parenthood and politics research with me, Laurel Elder has a nice side gig (with Barbara Burrell and Brian Frederick) studying first ladies.  They had a nice Monkey Cage recently on Melania’s relative unpopularity.  Short version: it’s actually not because she’s Donald’s wife, but because she’s so private compared to former first ladies:

But Melania Trump’s approval ratings are still lower than the remarkable levels of popularity enjoyed by her predecessors, Michelle Obama and Laura Bush, who maintained favorable ratings in the high 60s.

Our recently published book “American Presidential Candidate Spouses: The Public’s Perspective” looks into the recent rise in Melania Trump’s approval – and why she is unlikely ever to be as popular as Michelle Obama…

Another hypothesis could be that American partisan polarization puts a ceiling on Melania Trump’s approval ratings. But it’s not the cause. Our research shows that views toward Melania are actually less polarized than views toward any presidential candidate spouse since 2000.

The reason: lack of visibility

Rather, the reason is Melania Trump’s near invisibility while campaigning – and her relatively low profile role as first lady. The polling data collected for our book reveal that close to 70 percent of Americans think it’s important that presidential candidate spouses are active, visible and campaign for their spouses. Melania Trump did not fulfill this expectation. While most presidential spouses headline hundreds of events, Melania Trump spoke at just a handful. She was completely absent from the campaign trail for months.

The public now expects first ladies to be active and visible, as well as traditional, a concept we call the “new traditionalism.” Here Melania Trump falls short. Since becoming first lady, she has given far fewer speeches than her predecessors. It took her until May of her second year in office to announce her Be Best Initiative. The evidence so far suggests she will not champion this initiative very actively or visibly.

So, Melania’s relative unpopularity is actually her fault, not her husband’s. My advice to Melania– Be Best!

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About Steve Greene
Professor of Political Science at NC State http://faculty.chass.ncsu.edu/shgreene

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