AP News
Posted: Sep 04, 2012 7:34 PM

The first lady takes the stage tonight as the most popular figure in this year's presidential campaign. Michelle Obama earns higher favorability ratings than her husband, his Republican rival, the other contender for first lady or either candidate for the vice presidency, according to the latest Associated Press-GfK poll.

In the poll, conducted before the Republican convention began, 64 percent of Americans said they had a favorable view of Mrs. Obama. President Obama came in at 53 percent favorable, Mitt Romney landed at 44 percent and his wife Ann Romney stood at 40 percent. Joe Biden earned a 42 percent favorability rating; Paul Ryan, 38 percent.

Views of Mrs. Obama tilt favorably among independents and women, two focal points in her husband's campaign for re-election. She garners favorable reviews from 56 percent of independents and is viewed unfavorably by just 18 percent in this group.

Among women, her ratings soar to 72 percent favorable, compared with 55 percent among men. The gender gap is particularly pronounced among Republicans (26 percent of GOP men have a favorable view of the first lady, 52 percent of Republican women do) and married people (75 percent of married women view the first lady favorably compared with 50 percent of married men).

— Jennifer Agiesta —