More than twenty years after her husband, Ronald Reagan, left the presidency, Nancy Reagan is considered the best first lady, according to a new Vision Critical / Angus Reid poll.

In the online survey of a representative sample of 1,010 American adults, nearly one quarter (24%) responded that Nancy Reagan, wife of the 40th President of the United States, Ronald Reagan, was the best first lady since 1974. This sentiment is strongest with Republicans (38%) and throughout the US, with the exception of the Northeast, where Clinton is more popular (28%).

Hillary Rodham Clinton, wife of President Bill Clinton, and the current Secretary of State under Barack Obama, took second place with 19 per cent. Clinton is most well-liked by the younger generation (22% of 18-34 year olds). Respondents who identify themselves as Democrats like Clinton best of the choices provided (36%).

Michelle Obama, wife of the current President, landed in third place, selected by 15 per cent of respondents. Nearly two thirds of respondents in the United States (60%) have a very or moderately favorable opinion of Obama. Very little gender difference appears with regards to first ladies, with the exception of Obama who is more well-liked by women (17%) than men (13%).

Almost two thirds of Americans (63%) feel it is very or moderately important that first ladies in the US promote a specific cause during their spouse’s presidency.

One-in-ten Americans (10%) think Laura Bush, wife of President George W. Bush, was the best first lady, followed by her mother-in-law, Barbara Bush, wife of President George Bush, Sr. (7%). Six per cent selected Betty Ford, wife of President Gerald Ford, and four per cent chose Rosalynn Carter, wife of President Jimmy Carter, as the best first ladies.

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Full Report, Detailed Tables and Methodology (PDF)

On February 18, 2011, Angus Reid / Vision Critical conducted an online survey among 1,010 American adults who are Springboard America panelists. The margin of error—which measures sampling variability—is +/- 3.1%. The results have been statistically weighted according to the most current education, age, gender and region Census data to ensure a sample representative of the entire adult population of the United States. Discrepancies in or between totals are due to rounding.