It seems cruel to pit the two kindly first ladies against each other in such a gross popularity contest, but HighBeam Research has done just that, finding out what we all knew anyway: The media is way more into Michelle Obama than it was into Laura Bush.
HighBeam is a subscription-based search engine for media references, purporting to add 50,000 articles a day to a database of over 80 million documents from 6,500 publications. The company counted up media mentions for each first lady from her husband's first Election Day to Oct. 20 roughly three years later: Bush from Nov. 7, 2000 to Oct. 20, 2003 and Obama from Nov. 4, 2008 to Oct. 20, 2011.
Obama was mentioned 29,634 times, more than three times Bush's 8,707.
There are a couple possible explanations for Obama's media dominance beyond pure popularity. One is that Obama launched her high-profile "Let's Move" campaign to fight childhood obesity, generating lots of media hits through an alliance with the unbelievably popular Beyonce. Another is that media has proliferated since 2000, with online content booming between George W. Bush's election and Barack Obama's.