Magnetic anisotropies of ferromagnetic thin films are induced by epitaxial strain from the substrate via strain-induced anisotropy in the orbital magnetic moment and that in the spatial distribution of spin-polarized electrons. However, the preferential orbital occupation in ferromagnetic metallic La1-x Sr x MnO3 (LSMO) thin films studied by X-ray linear dichroism (XLD) has always been found out-of-plane for both tensile and compressive epitaxial strain and hence irrespective of the magnetic anisotropy. In order to resolve this mystery, we directly probed the preferential orbital occupation of spin-polarized electrons in LSMO thin films under strain by angle-dependent X-ray magnetic circular dichroism (XMCD). Anisotropy of the spin-density distribution was found to be in-plane for the tensile strain and out-of-plane for the compressive strain, consistent with the observed magnetic anisotropy. The ubiquitous out-of-plane preferential orbital occupation seen by XLD is attributed to the occupation of both spin-up and spin-down out-of-plane orbitals in the surface magnetic dead layer.