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Poll: Hillary Clinton best liked among potential 2016 hopefuls

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton leads the pack of potential 2016 presidential candidates in both favorability and familiarity among Americans, coming out on top in both measurements in a new Gallup poll released Thursday.

Even though Clinton's favorability rating among Americans has dropped since she left office in early 2013, she still has a net favorable rating of 19 percentage points, meaning there is a 19-point gap between the percent of people who few her favorably (55 percent) and those who view her unfavorably (36 percent). She is also well known, with 91 percent of Americans expressing an opinion about her.

The potential candidate with the next-highest favorability rating is former Gov. Mike Huckabee, R-Ark., who has a net favorable rating of 12 percentage points but only 54 percent familiarity. And the next most familiar potential candidate is Vice President Joe Biden, with 80 percent familiarity, but he has a net unfavorable rating of -4 percentage points, tying with former senator and 2012 Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum for the least well-liked. Biden's rating shave also dropped from a +4 to -4 favorability since February.

Gallup notes that although Clinton's favorability ratings have dropped from 66 percent during her tenure as secretary of state in 2011 and 2012 to 55 percent today, her net favorable rating of +19 is still better than her +6 net favorability rating a year and a half before the 2008 Democratic primary. Then, she had a 50 percent favorable and 44 percent unfavorable rating.

Gov. Chris Christie, R-N.J., who is hoping to woo early voters with an appearance in Iowa Thursday, is still recovering from the effects of the George Washington Bridge scandal in which some of his staffers are alleged to have ordered the closure of several lanes leading to the bridge in Fort Lee, N.J.,as political retribution against that city's mayor. In the wake of 2012's superstorm Sandy, Christie enjoyed a huge net favorable rating of +32 percentage points, before plummeting to -9 in the immediate wake of the bridge scandal. But he is recovering, Gallup found, and has edged into positive territory in Thursday's poll with a +1 favorable rating.

Meanwhile, a new poll from NBC News/Marist found that 33 percent of Iowa Republicans and 31 percent of New Hampshire Republicans view Christie negatively, compared to 50 percent and 52 percent, respectively, who view him positively.

He falls in the middle of the pack in favorability ratings compared to several other potential GOP hopefuls (Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and Texas Sen. Ted Cruz both have lower favorability ratings the two early states), but he has the highest negative ratings by far, giving him the smallest margins of favorability. Other possible Republican candidates NBC/Marist tested included Sens. Rand Paul and Marco Rubio as well as former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush.

The Gallup poll was based on telephone interviews with 1,013 adults in the U.S. aged 18 and older conducted July 7-10. The margin of sampling error is+/-4 percentage points. The NBC/Marist Iowa poll was conducted July 7-13 of 392 Republicans, and has a margin of error of plus-minus 4.9 percentage points.The NBC/Marist New Hampshire poll was conducted July 7-13 of 340 Republican voters, and has a margin of error of plus-minus 5.3 percentage points.

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