Washington - Hillary Clinton continues to be a dominant force heading into the 2016 presidential election, according to a new CNN/ORC poll. The former secretary of state maintains a broad lead over the field of potential Democratic challengers she could face in a nomination contest and sizable advantages over the leading contenders from the Republican side in general election match-ups.
Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush tops the possible field for the Republican Party's nomination race, followed by Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee and former neurosurgeon Ben Carson all in a tight cluster.
But none of the top candidates in this field gets within 10 points of Hillary Clinton in a series of hypothetical general election matchups.
Rand Paul comes closest, with 43% saying they'd be more likely to back him while 54% choose Clinton. The two candidates who currently top the GOP field, Bush and Walker, match up equally against Clinton, with each carrying 40% to her 55%. Huckabee gets 41% to Clinton's 55% and Carson has 40% to Clinton's 56%.
In the race for the Democratic presidential nomination, Clinton holds a nearly 50-point lead over Vice President Joe Biden, her closest competitor in the field, 62% to 15%. Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren rounds out the top three on the Democratic side with 10%. No other potential candidate tops 5%.
Should Warren decide not to get into the race, Clinton stands to benefit more than others, gaining 5 points and holding a 67% to 16% advantage over Biden when Warren's backers are re-allocated to their second-choice candidate. Notably, with Warren out of the race, Clinton surges from 67% support to 74% among Democratic women.
And Democrats broadly believe the party's chances to hold the White House in 2016 are strongest with Clinton; 68% say so, while 30% say the party would have a better shot with someone else leading the ticket.
Though Clinton's favorability rating has taken a hit recently, her prospects in 2016 appear largely unchanged compared to polls conducted before news broke about her use of a personal email address and home-based server while serving as secretary of state.
On the Republican side, Bush leads the pack with 16%, Walker follows at 13%, Paul nearly matches him at 12% and Huckabee holds 10% support. Huckabee's backing has dipped significantly since February, from 16% to 10%, while the others near the top have generally held steady. In single digits, Carson holds 9%, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie has 7%, and Florida Sen. Marco Rubio has 7%. The rest of the field lands below 5%, including 2012 candidates Rick Santorum at 1% and Rick Perry at 4%.
Some interesting demographic trends emerge in the GOP numbers: There is something of a gender gap in preferences, with both Walker (17% among men, 9% among women) and Paul (16% among men, 7% among women) doing significantly better with men than women. Younger Republicans are more likely to back Paul than older ones (he has 17% support among Republicans under 50, just 7% among older Republicans).
Bush's backing generally holds steady across demographic divides, but he fares better among self-identified Republicans (22%) than independents who lean toward the party (10%), while Paul outperforms among independents (17% compared with 7% among self-identified Republicans).
Yet many of the GOP's strongest contenders remain largely unknown. Majorities of Americans haven't yet formed opinions about Scott Walker (58%) or Ben Carson (64%), and about half haven't heard of or don't know about Marco Rubio (48%).
Even the best known Republican contender, Jeb Bush, prompts nearly a quarter of Americans to say they're not sure how they feel about him (23%). Republicans themselves have heard a bit more about their party's top potential candidates, but only one merits a majority favorable rating among Republicans and Republican-leaning independents: Mike Huckabee at 57% favorable.
The CNN/ORC International poll was conducted by telephone March 13-15 and included interviews with 1,009 adult Americans. For results among the full sample, the margin of sampling error is plus or minus 3 percentage points. For results among the 450 Republicans or Republican-leaning independents, or among the 466 Democrats or Democratic-leaning independents, it is 4.5 points.