Melania Trump's transition from wealthy inhabitant of Trump Tower to potential inhabitant of the White House has not been an easy one. First, there was the revelation that her convention speech lifted sections of Michelle Obama's speech eight years earlier and, more recently, questions about how she immigrated to the United States. But even before her convention speech, she was viewed skeptically by the public. After the conventions? It hasn't improved.
In the most recent Washington Post/ABC News poll, we asked people to offer their opinions of the four people involved in the campaign who aren't at the top of the tickets: the spouses and running mates of Trump and Hillary Clinton.
Bill Clinton was (predictably) the best known of the four, with more than half of respondents having a positive opinion of him. Melania Trump was slightly better known than either of the vice-presidential picks but also viewed more negatively. Her net favorability — those viewing her positively minus those viewing her negatively — is a plus-1, meaning that she's viewed about as positively as negatively. By contrast, vice-presidential picks Tim Kaine and Mike Pence had net favorabilities of plus-19 and plus-17, respectively.
A lot of this is rooted in partisanship. Forty percent of Democrats have a strongly unfavorable view of Melania Trump — a smaller figure than how many Republicans view Bill Clinton strongly unfavorably, but, then, Clinton's been around a bit longer. Republicans have a positive view of Trump, but Democrats love Bill. Most independents view Clinton favorably, too, while Melania Trump is still fairly unknown.
Trump is hindered by more than partisanship, though. There's also a correlation with how people feel about her husband. Two-thirds of those with a strongly favorable view of Donald Trump have a favorable view of Melania — and more than 60 percent of those who view Donald Trump strongly unfavorably view Melania negatively. The margins for the Clintons are even starker (95 percent of those viewing Hillary Clinton strongly favorably view Bill positively; 76 percent viewing her strongly unfavorably don't like her husband), but Melania Trump is still far less well known.
Melania Trump's popularity is lower than nearly any other recent candidate's spouse during an election year. The most popular spouse was Barbara Bush, George H.W. Bush's wife. (This will surprise no one old enough to remember his presidency.) Michelle Obama was also viewed fairly positively at about this stage of 2012, though a little worse four years earlier, when she wasn't as well known. (In October of that year, 29 percent of Republicans had a strongly negative view of her.) To find a spouse less positively viewed than Melania, you'd have to go back to January 1996 — and a presidential spouse named Hillary Clinton.
That's the bright spot, I guess. Melania Trump hasn't been enjoying this election very much, it's probably safe to say. But based on past results — and if it weren't for her immigration status — she would be on track to someday be her party's nominee for president.