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Poll: Just three percent have favorable view of John Edwards

Former presidential candidate and U.S. Sen. John Edwards arrives outside federal court following a lunch break in Greensboro, N.C., Thursday, April 12, 2012, where jury selection is underway in his criminal trial on alleged campaign finance violations. AP Photo/Gerry Broome

CBS News Poll analysis by the CBS News Polling Unit: Sarah Dutton, Jennifer De Pinto, Fred Backus and Anthony Salvanto.

(CBS News) With opening arguments in the trial of former U.S. senator and presidential candidate John Edwards set to begin on on Monday, a CBS News/New York Times poll shows that public opinion of him has plummeted since he was a candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2007. Now, he is now most known for cheating on his wife.

The CBS/NYT poll reveals that only 3 percent of those polled hold a favorable view of Edwards, who has been charged with misusing campaign funds. That is down from 30 percent in 2007 when he was running for the Democratic nomination, which is also the last time the question was asked among registered voters.

Since 2007, Edwards' unfavorable ratings have risen eleven points, from 30 percent to 41 percent today. However, half of those polled are undecided or don't have an opinion of Edwards.

Women, however, especially dislike Edwards, with just 2 percent holding a favorable view of him compared to 45 percent who view him unfavorably.

Complete CBS News/New York Times poll results: John Edwards (pdf)

The poll asked Americans what was the first thing that came to mind when they heard the name John Edwards, other than him running for president. Cheating on his wife is the first association that thirty percent of those polled have when they think of Edwards, who had an affair - and a child - with Rielle Hunter while married to long-time wife Elizabeth Edwards. However, more people - 39 percent - were unable to associate Edwards with anything, which provides insight into another finding: most Americans know nothing or very little about his upcoming trial.

Furthermore, more than half of those polled said they didn't know why Edwards was on trial and 52 percent don't know if he did anything wrong. Twenty-four percent of those polled say his actions were unethical while 11 percent say his actions were illegal.

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This poll was conducted by telephone from April 13-17, 2012 among 957 adults nationwide.

Phone numbers were dialed from samples of both standard land-line and cell phones. The error due to sampling for results based on the entire sample could be plus or minus three percentage points. The error for subgroups may be higher. This poll release conforms to the Standards of Disclosure of the National Council on Public Polls.

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