The only one of the declared presidential candidates that Americans have positive feelings for overall isn’t a frontrunner and has never held public office before. According to a poll released Thursday by Public Policy Polling, retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson is the sole presidential candidate whose favorability rating is higher than his or her unfavorability rating.
When asked about Carson, 41 percent of the respondents in the national poll reported that they felt favorably about him, compared to 30 percent who have an unfavorable view. That puts him well ahead of all the other candidates in the field, though 29 percent of respondents said they were not familiar enough with Carson to make a judgment about him, suggesting that those numbers could change as he becomes more widely known. The only other candidate to come close to an overall favorable rating was former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina, who at 32/35 had an overall favorability rating of -3.
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Of the two frontrunners, Donald Trump did just slightly better than Clinton on the favorability scale, coming in at 35/53 favorable/unfavorable for a net favorability rating of -19. Clinton clocks in at 36/55, for a net score of -19.
The good news for Clinton is that likability doesn’t appear to be directly tied to electability.
Despite the fact that voters appear to like Trump slightly better, in a theoretical head-to-head election match-up, Clinton actually edges the real estate billionaire 46 percent to 44 percent. And despite his vastly better favorability levels, Clinton ties Carson in a head-to-head poll 44-44. Clinton easily topped each of the other Republican candidates she was tested against.
The news for some of the other candidates in the field was pretty grim.
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New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, for example, showed an overall favorable/unfavorable rating of 24/57, a -33 net rating. Even if every one of the 19 percent of respondents who don’t know enough about him to form an opinion were to decide they like him, Christie would still be negative in double digits.
Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul had an even worse showing that Christie, posting a 19/57 favorable/unfavorable split for a net score of -38. Like Christie, there aren’t enough people with no opinion of Paul to tip him into positive territory even if all 23 percent of them broke his way.
As has been the case in most recent polls, Vice President Joe Biden, who is said to be considering a run for the presidency, did reasonably well in the poll. He posted a net favorable rating of 3 percent (43/40), better than any of the actual declared candidates except Carson.
Biden also did well in head-to-head theoretical general election matchups. He tops Trump easily, 47-41, and also came in ahead of former Florida governor Jeb Bush 43-41.
However, it’s important to note that Biden, who is viewed affectionately by many Americans, is not a declared candidate, and his numbers could change dramatically if he starts to be seen by partisans on both sides as a threat to their favored candidates.