The Washington Post

Michelle Obama and black women in America

Has Michelle Obama changed impressions of black women in America? According to a new nationwide survey by The Washington Post and the Kaiser Family Foundation, she has for about a quarter of all Americans.

(Cliff Owen/Associated Press)

The survey, which includes interviews with more than 800 black women, asked a series of questions about the first African-American first lady. There were some findings we expected — Obama has very high favorable numbers and continues to be quite popular. But there were also some surprises. For example, 41 percent of black women say Michelle Obama has changed the way they look at themselves as a group. And large numbers of black women describe themselves as identifying with the first lady on a personal level.

Here’s what political scientist Melissa Harris-Perry told me:

“Every time she flawlessly performs her role as first lady just by being who she is, she shows how extraordinary and exceptional we are,” Harris-Perry said. “It is really fun to watch. It feels like, yes! Oh, this can never be denied.

“But every time she is booed at a NASCAR rally, the terrifying reality emerges that it will take so little for the love and admiration of Michelle Obama to go away. Anything she does that is construed as negative or stereotype-reinforcing will undoubtedly be held against us.”

Join polling director Jon Cohen and me at noon EST to chat about the poll, the reflections I heard in interviews and what it all tells us about black women and how they see Michelle Obama.

Krissah Thompson began writing for The Washington Post in 2001. She has been a business reporter, covered presidential campaigns and written about civil rights and race. More recently, she has covered the first lady's office, politics and culture.

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