What's Behind Michelle Obama's Falling Poll Numbers?

By Claudine Zap.

What's a first lady have to do these days to be liked? Apparently, not go to Spain, or stay in a really, really nice hotel, or show off your shoulders in summery designer tops.

The most recent poll of the first lady shows her favorability rating has fallen from 64% in April down to 50% today. Translation: Americans are not cool with Michelle Obama's cool taste in travel.

Even though the first lady's vacation with her daughter was private, (White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said the Obamas covered their personal expenses), the appearance of FLOTUS gallivanting in Europe in a grand way rubbed some Americans the wrong way - especially those who had to settle for staycations this year.

Michelle Obama's poll numbers aren't quite as bleak as her husband's (at 46%), but are still lower than former first lady Laura Bush at her lowest.

True, Mrs. Obama is no Laura Bush. To Obama's admirers, she is independent, confident, self-reliant. To her detractors, she is too much of all these things. Her trip to Spain caused one pundit to dub her a "modern-day Marie Antoinette." Ouch. Does it matter that her official position is unpaid, that the vacation was personal, and that she paid -- at least for personal expesnes -- out of pocket? Apparently not.

It didn't help that the trip details were grossly misreported: Gawker pointed out that the story going around that Michelle Obama headed to Europe with 40 friends was flat-out wrong: She traveled with her daughter, Sasha, and a friend who had recently lost her father.

Still, I'm guessing the next vacation will be some volunteer project for Habitat for Humanity or a visit to a coal mine, in the spirit of pitch-perfect first lady Eleanor Roosevelt -- who, maybe not coincidentally, held the role during the Great Depression.

There will be fewer visits to Spain or Maine -- and more family trips to places like the Gulf Coast of Florida -- where the Obamas spent the weekend to encourage tourism to the region post-oil spill.

What do you think? Are the critics too harsh?