THE WOMAN BEHIND THE EAGLE: IMPACT OF THE CHARACTER OF THE FIRST LADY ON PRESIDENTIAL APPROVAL RATINGS

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Throughout the history of the Executive branch, there has always been a First Lady standing at the side of the President. Historically, that position was kept in the shadows behind the President. The First Lady’s only public job was to play gracious hostess to those visiting the White House. However, now, the First Lady is expected to stand next to the President contributing in her own right and is expected to choose an issue that she will focus on throughout the duration of her husband’s term. Her role in the White House is evolving into a more political role including meeting with foreign dignitaries and developing legislation of her own to advance a particular issue. The first question after the election regarding the First Lady recently has been on which issue she will choose as her platform during her tenure. With the emerging focus on the First Lady, one must ask how that focus will affect the President and his political capital with the constituency. Using the foundation of an analysis of Presidential character by James David Barber, I will classify the First Lady into one of the four character types. I am interested in the effect that the First Lady’s character has on presidential approval ratings. With an analysis of a selection of the most recent First Ladies, beginning with Nancy Reagan and ending with Laura Bush, I will place these First Ladies into the Barber categories based on an analysis of their lives. I will then examine their individual approval ratings to see if the Barber analysis of their character holds true and determine how they have affected their presidential husbands either positively or negatively. I hypothesize that the public approval rating of the president will be affected by his wife. With a small sample size, I will seek to show that approval ratings will be higher for a President who is paired with a passive-positive First Lady. I hypothesize there will be an effect of the First Lady’s character and subsequent approval ratings on Presidential approval ratings which the White House will then use to parley into positive political capital for the President.

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First Lady, Public approval, Public opinion, President, Nancy Reagan, Hillary Rodham Clinton, Laura Bush, Character, James David Barber
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