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Voters prefer Michelle Obama and Ann Romney to their husbands

Both First Lady Michelle Obama and Ann Romney are more popular than their husbands,  according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll.

Washington Post-ABC News poll Oct. 4-7, 2012. Graphic: Erin Eastabrooks.

Fully two-thirds of all voters express favorable opinions of Michelle Obama, keeping her squarely among the most popular figures in American political life. She continues to outpace the popularity of her husband also know as the President of the United States. Ann Romney remains lesser known than the First Lady, but has gained backers since the spring: 56 percent of voters now hold positive impressions of her.

In the poll, Michelle Obama is 12 percentage points more popular than her husband; Ann Romney nine-points above her husband, Mitt Romney, the former governor of Massachusetts. Both women gain their edge by holding far greater cross-party appeal than do the candidates themselves.

An overwhelming 82 percent Republican voters express unfavorable views of the president, but that dives down to 54 percent when it comes to Michelle Obama. Republicans are more than twice as likely to have positive views of the First Lady than they are the president. Similarly, 81 percent of Democrats have unfavorable views of Mitt Romney, compared with 52 percent of Ann Romney.

Both women garner majority favorability from independent voters, while neither of the candidates top 50 percent.

Since April, Ann Romney’s favorable ratings have shot up from 43 percent among voters to 56 percent now as people have become more familiar with her. Her unfavorable ratings remain largely unchanged.

Michelle Obama also has had a similar number of detractors -- around 30 percent -- as she did when her popularity was first measured in Post-ABC polls during the 2008 campaign.

The stubborn unfavorable rating for each spouse is due to the same partisan gridlock that undergirds public assessments of their husbands. Among Democratic voters, Ann Romney’s unfavorable ratings haven’t budged -- 52 percent in April just as now. Unfavorable ratings for Michelle Obama among Republican voters have ticked up to 54 percent, topping the 2008 high of 50 percent, and far above her negative rating among the GOP in her husband's first year in office.

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