The 2004 presidential race between Republican George W. Bush and Democrat John Kerry may be a dead heat, but when Americans are given the chance to "vote" separately for first lady, Laura Bush (search) holds a sizable lead over Teresa Heinz Kerry (search), according to a new Fox News poll.

In a hypothetical first lady "matchup," the latest Fox News national poll finds that nearly half of all Americans say they would choose Laura Bush over Teresa Heinz Kerry (47 percent to 23 percent), with 29 percent saying "neither" or "not sure."

Predictably, the current first lady receives the most support from Republicans, as 85 percent say they would vote for Mrs. Bush and two percent for Mrs. Heinz Kerry. A plurality of Democrats favors the wife of Mass. Sen. John Kerry (search) although, possibly due to the public's unfamiliarity with her, she does not receive the same overwhelming support from her husband's political party that Mrs. Bush does from hers. Forty-five percent of Democrats would vote for Mrs. Heinz Kerry, while 18 percent would support Mrs. Bush and 35 percent are uncommitted.

"Since voters are still learning who John Kerry is," comments Opinion Dynamics President John Gorman, "they are simply not familiar with Teresa Kerry yet and this accounts for her position. It is very likely that by Election Day, the situation will work itself out like just about everything else in the public opinion world these days — half of the public on one side and half on the other. There is some room for crossover, though, since Teresa Kerry may appeal to some Republicans who want a more active first lady, while Laura Bush may have appeal to some Democrats who want a first lady who stays more in the background."

Independents favor Mrs. Bush by more than two-to-one, and in addition to Republicans, she receives her strongest support from Midwesterners, women, whites and conservatives. Among those most likely to support Mrs. Heinz Kerry are liberals, blacks, and those who disapprove of the job George W. Bush is doing as president. In the Northeast, where Mrs. Heinz Kerry is arguably best known, she trails Mrs. Bush by only nine percentage points.

Voters are more evenly divided when asked which spouse has more influence over her husband's decisions. Almost a third of Americans (30 percent) believe Mrs. Bush has more influence over her husband, 26 percent say Mrs. Heinz Kerry, 12 percent say "neither," and 29 percent are not sure.

Republicans and independents are more likely to say Mrs. Bush is the wife who has her husband's ear, but Democrats are split, choosing Mrs. Heinz Kerry by a bare one-point margin as the influential spouse (28 percent to 27 percent). Once again, unfamiliarity with Mrs. Heinz Kerry comes into play, as over 40 percent of Democrats answer neither or not sure. Among women, a plurality thinks Mrs. Bush has more power to sway her husband (31 percent to 23 percent), while men narrowly choose Mrs. Heinz Kerry (30 percent to 28 percent).

Opinion Dynamics Corporation conducted the national telephone poll of 900 registered voters for Fox News on April 21-22.

Traditionally, presidential candidates publicly release their tax returns and while both President Bush and John Kerry did so this year, so far Teresa Heinz Kerry — who files separately from her husband — has chosen not to make her tax returns public. Over half of Americans (58 percent), including 64 percent of Republicans and also 57 percent of Democrats, disagree with that decision and think spouses of presidential candidates should release their tax returns.

1. If voters were allowed to cast a separate ballot for first lady, would you vote for: (rotate)

All Dem Rep Ind
1. Laura Bush 47% 18% 85% 44%
2. Teresa Heinz Kerry 23 45 2 19
3. (Both) 1 2 - 3
4. (Neither) 14 16 6 20
5. (Not sure) 15 19 7 14

2. Who do you think has more influence over her husband's decisions (Laura Bush or Teresa Heinz Kerry)? (rotate)

All Dem Rep Ind
1. Laura Bush 30% 28% 34% 29%
2. Teresa Heinz Kerry 26 27 27 21
3. (Both) 3 3 3 6
4. (Neither) 12 14 9 14
5. (Not sure) 29 28 28 30

3. Traditionally presidential candidates publicly release their tax returns. Do you think the spouses of presidential candidates should also publicly release their tax returns or not?

All Dem Rep Ind
1. Yes, spouses should
     release tax returns
58% 57% 64% 51%
2. No, just the candidates 34 36 30 38
3. (Not sure) 8 8 6 11