First ladies often enjoy relatively high approval ratings, but the latest Melania Trump favorability poll shows that she may not be immune from the president's controversies. A CNN survey released on Tuesday found that Melania's popularity has fallen in the last several weeks, a period of time in which President Trump has drawn widespread condemnation for his administration's policy of separating undocumented children from their parents at the border.
In a CNN poll conducted in early May, 57 percent of respondents said they approved of the job Melania was doing as first lady. Since then, however, her favorability has fallen to 51 percent, CNN reports. Likewise, Melania's unfavorability rating has climbed slightly during that same period of time, jumping from 27 percent in early May to 29 percent in mid-June. The majority of people who view Melania favorably are white Republican men who support the president, CNN reports.
The poll did not ask respondents to explain the reasoning behind their assessment of the first lady, so it's impossible to say exactly what caused the decline in her approval ratings. But several notable things happened in Trump world during the time in which Melania seemingly became less popular with the American public.
The most widely-covered development was administration's implementation of a new immigration policy, known as family separation, in which undocumented children are split off from their parents at the border and detained in separate facilities. Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced the new policy in May, and since then, at least 2,342 children have been separated from their parents, according to the administration's own figures. Video from a Texas detention facilities shows undocumented children in cages, leading to widespread condemnation of the administration.
During the same period of time, Melania herself was largely absent from public view. After appearing with Donald at an event on May 10th, Melania wasn't seen in public for three weeks, fueling various conspiracy theories regarding her absence. On June 6th, she attended a public briefing at FEMA headquarters regarding Hurricane Maria.
It's unclear whether any of this played a role in Melania's declining approval ratings, although it is worth noting that she denounced the administration's family separation policy on Sunday.
"Mrs. Trump hates to see children separated from their families and hopes both sides of the aisle can finally come together to achieve successful immigration reform," Melania's communications director Stephanie Grisham said in a statement. "She believes we need to be a country that follows all laws, but also a country that governs with heart."
Other administration officials have issued various and sometimes conflicting statements on family separation. In a briefing Thursday, White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders wrongly claimed that the law requires the administration to separate undocumented children from their parents, then blamed Democrats for failing to change that non-existent law. Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen claimed on Twitter that "we do not have a policy of separating families at the border," but then said days later that "we will not apologize for enforcing the laws passed by Congress."
For her part, Melania has recently been trumpeting her "Be Best" campaign, which is aimed at promoting the "social, emotional, and physical health" of American kids. The effort, which the first lady formally unveiled in May, has three main focuses, according to its website: Wellbeing, social media use, and opioid abuse.
"By promoting values such as healthy living, encouragement, kindness, and respect, parents, teachers, and other adults can help prepare children for their futures," the Be Best website says. "With those values as a solid foundation, children will be able to better deal with the evils of the opioid crisis and avoid negative social media interaction."
Although her numbers have fallen recently, Melania still has a higher approval rating than she did in January, when only 47 percent of Americans approved of her performance as first lady. She's also more popular than the president, who currently has a 45 percent approval rating — his highest since taking office.