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Poll: Hillary Clinton continues to rule the 2016 roost

In an early snapshot of the 2016 presidential race, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton leads both Gov. Chris Christie, R-N.J., and Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., according to a Quinnipiac University poll released Friday.

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Clinton tops Christie 46 to 40 percent, and she beats Paul by a margin of 50 to 38 percent. Vice President Joe Biden, by contrast, trails Christie, 46 to 35 percent, and is tied with Paul at 42 percent apiece.

Fifty-five percent of voters view Clinton favorably, while only 38 percent view her unfavorably. Christie, who is not as well known, still boasts strong favorability numbers, at 45 to 18 percent. Even 41 percent of Democrats view Christie favorably, while only 19 percent view him unfavorably.

Clinton "remains the front-runner for 2016 if she chooses to run," said Peter A. Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute, but "Christie's favorability numbers are impressive and if he can win over a solid share of those who do not yet have an opinion about him, he could be a very formidable candidate in 2016. Candidates with more than 2-1 favorability ratios don't grow on trees."

Quinnipiac also unearthed some interesting attitudes about congressional gridlock and who's to blame for the seemingly endless food fight going on in Washington. Fifty-three percent of voters say President Obama is doing "too little" to broker compromise with congressional Republicans, but 68 percent of voters say congressional Republicans are doing too little to reach across the aisle. Even 49 percent of Republicans said their leaders are doing too little to reach a compromise. Ten percent of voters blame Democrats for gridlock, 23 percent blame Republicans, and 64 percent cast a pox on both houses.

Perhaps most damning for Republicans, however, 51 percent of voters blame the gridlock on the GOP's determination to block any initiative backed by the president, while only 35 percent blame President Obama's inability to convince leaders of Congress to work together.

"Voters think the Democrats and Obama aren't playing nice, but they think the Republicans are worse," Brown explained.

The poll also surveyed attitudes about several issues under consideration in Washington, including immigration, same-sex marriage, and affirmative action.

Immigration reform: House Republicans divided over path to citizenship

Fifty-four percent of voters said undocumented immigrants living in the United States should be given an eventual path to citizenship, 12 percent said they should be allowed to stay but should remain non-citizens, while 28 percent would elect to deport them.

Only 27 percent of voters believe that Republicans and Democrats will be able to work together to pass immigration reform this year, while 69 percent believe it won't happen.

On same-sex marriage, 49 percent of respondents said they'd support a law in their state allowing gay couples to marry, while 44 percent were opposed. 62 percent of voters voiced agreement with the recent Supreme Court decision extending federal benefits to same-sex couples, while 34 percent disagreed.

Forty percent of voters said states should be allowed to forge their own laws on same-sex marriage, while 53 percent believed the issue should be decided nationally on the basis of the Constitution.

Finally, despite the Supreme Court's recent indecision on affirmative action, 74 percent of voters said that public universities should not be allowed to use race as a factor in college admissions, while 21 percent said race should be a factor.

The poll, which surveyed 2,014 registered voters nationwide between June 28 and July 8, has a margin of error of plus or minus 2.2 percent.