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Most favorable: Michelle Obama, Hillary Clinton win out over president

By Paul Steinhauser, CNN Deputy Political Director
President Obama is the third most favorably viewed person in his administration, says a new CNN/Opinion Research survey.
President Obama is the third most favorably viewed person in his administration, says a new CNN/Opinion Research survey.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Survey shows President Obama's rating 10 points below first lady's
  • Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's favorable rating is 6 points above the president
  • A favorable rating is not the same as an approval rating
  • President's favorable rating down 6 points from August and 11 points from April
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Washington (CNN) -- President Obama may be the most popular man in his administration, but according to a new national poll, he's not the most popular person.

A CNN/Opinion Research Corporation survey released Wednesday indicates that the president's poll numbers pale in comparison to the favorable ratings of two women: Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and first lady Michelle Obama.

Fifty-eight percent of people questioned in the survey have a favorable view of Obama, with four in 10 holding an unfavorable view. But the president's favorable rating is 10 points below that of his wife and six points behind the secretary of state. According to the poll, 68 percent of the public have a positive opinion of the first lady, with 19 percent holding an unfavorable opinion. Sixty-four percent have a positive view of Clinton, with three in 10 holding an unfavorable view.

The survey indicates that nearly nine out of 10 Democrats have a positive view of the president, with Independents split and more than three out of four Republicans seeing Obama in an unfavorable way. The president's favorable rating is down six points from August and 11 points from April.

A favorable rating is not the same as an approval rating: Favorable ratings measure how Americans feel about Obama as a person, while an approval rating is an indicator of his job performance in the White House.

According to the poll, most Cabinet officials other than Clinton are not very well known.

See the full results (PDF)

"An exception is Defense Secretary Robert Gates who may be better-known, and better-liked than the rest because he also served for several years under former President George W. Bush," says CNN polling director Keating Holland.

Gates has a 52 percent favorable rating, with 18 percent unfavorable and three in 10 unsure. The defense secretary's 55 percent favorable rating among Republicans is one point higher than his rating among Democrats.

Twenty-seven percent of people questioned say they have a favorable opinion of Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, with 33 percent holding an unfavorable view and four in 10 unsure. The poll indicates Americans are divided on their opinion of Attorney General Eric Holder, with 54 percent unsure. The public also appears to be split on their opinion of Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke, with 43 percent unsure.

"Geithner and Holder are relatively unknown. So is Bernanke, despite his status as Time magazine's person of the year and his high-profile confirmation hearings on Capitol Hill," Holland said.

The CNN/Opinion Research Corporation poll was conducted December 16-20, with 1,160 adult Americans questioned by telephone. The survey's overall sampling error is plus or minus three percentage points.

 
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