Hillary Clinton's popularity remains high, outstripping GOP rivals, poll finds

So far, email controversy does not appear to have damaged the public's view of Clinton

Hillary Rodham Clinton is not only the best-known, but also the most favorably viewed of the potential presidential candidates from either of the two major parties, according to a Gallup poll released Thursday.

The poll was conducted Monday through Wednesday of last week, mostly after the news broke about Clinton's use of a private email account while she was secretary of state, but before the news conference this week in which she addressed the issue.

Roughly nine in 10 Americans said they knew enough about Clinton to have an opinion, and the poll found that 50% viewed her favorably, while 39% had a negative impression. On both counts, that put her in better position than any of the potential Republican candidates at this early stage of the presidential race.

Clinton's favorability has declined since she left the State Department, as Americans have begun to see her as a presidential candidate, rather than in the more non-political role of the nation's top diplomat. When she left the agency, about two-thirds of Americans had a favorable view of her, a number that has dropped steadily as partisanship has taken its inexorable toll.

Last June, when Clinton released her book, "Hard Choices," 54% of Americans had a favorable view, according to a Gallup survey taken at the time. The comparison of that number with the current figure indicates that the email controversy had not had a significant impact on Americans' view of Clinton as of the time the new poll was taken.

Among the Republican hopefuls, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie were the best known, with roughly two-thirds of Americans holding an opinion of them.

But in Bush's case, that opinion was closely divided, 35% favorable and 33% unfavorable. Christie stood in a worse position, with negative perceptions outweighing positive ones, 34%-31%.

Among the potential serious contenders for the GOP nomination, Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida had the highest net favorability, with 26% holding a positive view and 21% a negative one, the poll found. Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker also had a net favorable rating, but was somewhat less known, with 20% favorable and 18% unfavorable.

The least popular Republican candidates overall were former Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania and the two Texans potentially in the race, former Gov. Rick Perry and Sen. Ted Cruz. For Santorum, negative views outnumbered positives, 27%-20%, for Perry it was 32%-25% and for Cruz, 28%-22%.

On the Democratic side, Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, who some have hoped would challenge Clinton, had a net positive rating, but was far less known than Clinton. The poll showed 22% viewing her favorably and 19% unfavorably. Warren has repeatedly said she is not running and has taken no steps toward starting a campaign.

The Gallup survey questioned 1,522 U.S. adults by land lines and cellphones. It has a margin of error of +/- 3 percentage points.

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