Bill Clinton as the “1st First Gentleman” will be very polarized, partly because
they were in the past. Feeling thermometer scores are a way to assess public opinion, and they work on a 0 – 100 scale: 0 degrees is really cold, 50 degrees is neutral, and 100 degrees is warm. 46 percent of the public felt either very warm or very cold towards him in 1996. It would also partly have to do with him being an unusual presidential spouse. He would play a much more political role than most first ladies have done. Also, I suspect that feelings toward him would probably be very linked to Hillary Clinton: People who feel positive towards her are going to feel positive towards him, and vice versa.
Hillary Clinton, the presidential candidate who could very well become the first woman to claim the Oval Office after this year's election, has already outlined her husband's potential gig as the country's first First Gentleman.
During last night's Democratic debate in South Carolina, Hillary was asked what kind of role former POTUS Bill might take when it comes to advising her on economic affairs. Will he have a "kitchen table role" or a "real policy role?"
Most former first ladies were not the subject of much research in this area because they did not generate much controversy. They were more traditional and so didn’t really have the same polarization. Barbara Bush is an example of a traditional first lady, and feelings towards her were very positive. Most first ladies before Hillary were not involved in policy, and usually took on projects that would have widespread approval – like reducing drug addiction or promoting good health, for example. This enabled them to travel the country in a non-partisan way and do things that both Democrats and Republicans would find laudable. Hillary Clinton deviated from that significantly. But she, and perhaps Eleanor Roosevelt, were an exception. Subsequent first ladies went back to a more traditional role, including Michelle Obama.