Clinton leads Christie, Paul in 2016 poll

WASHINGTON — Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton leads New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie in an early matchup of potential 2016 presidential candidates, according to a poll that found each with high favorability among voters.

Opinions of Congress are lower, with more than two-thirds of U.S. voters saying lawmakers won’t be able to pass a new immigration law because of continuing gridlock, according to the survey released Friday by Quinnipiac University.

The Quinnipiac poll gave Clinton, a former first lady and senator from New York, a 46 percent to 40 percent advantage over Christie, 50, who is seeking re-election this year. A similar survey released in March showed Clinton ahead of Christie, 45 percent to 37 percent.

The survey showed Clinton viewed favorably by 55 percent and unfavorably by 38 percent. Christie had a favorability rating of 45 percent, compared with 18 percent unfavorable.

While Clinton remains the frontrunner, “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,” said Peter Brown, assistant director of Quinnipiac’s polling institute. “Candidates with more than 2-1 favorability ratios don’t grow on trees.”

Clinton, 65, also leads another potential 2016 Republican candidate, Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, 50 percent to 38 percent. An April Quinnipiac poll showed Clinton as the overwhelming favorite for the 2016 Democratic nomination if she runs, with 65 percent supporting her. If Clinton doesn’t run, then 45 percent would back Vice President Joe Biden.

In the latest survey, Biden trails Christie, 46 percent to 35 percent, and ties Paul at 42 percent. Biden is viewed negatively by 44 percent of voters and positively by 38 percent, while Paul, a tea party favorite, has a rating of 31 percent favorable and 28 percent unfavorable.

The poll showed voters blaming Republicans more than President Barack Obama for Congress’ inability to enact legislation. More than two-thirds of respondents — 68 percent — said congressional Republicans are doing too little to compromise, compared with 53 percent who said the same of Obama.

More than twice as many voters say Republicans are responsible for the current stalemate in Congress than Democrats, 23 percent to 10 percent, though 64 percent blame both parties. A majority, 51 percent, attributed the stalemate to the Republicans’ focus on blocking Obama’s proposals, while 35 percent said the president didn’t have the skills to get congressional leaders to work together.

Lawmakers are on pace to do even less than in the last session, when they enacted the fewest laws since the 1940s. Just 15 bills have been signed into law this year, compared with 23 during the same period of the last Congress.

“Voters think the Democrats and Obama aren’t playing nice, but they think the Republicans are worse,” Brown said.

Such gridlock has voters expecting Congress to fail to act on immigration. Sixty-nine percent said representatives of the two major parties won’t produce a law, while 27 percent said they will work together and come up with legislation.

The Democratic-controlled Senate has passed a bipartisan bill. House Republicans have refused to consider the measure, offering instead a series of bills to strengthen border security and provide visas for guest workers. Missing from the House Republican measures is a path to citizenship for an estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants that’s part of the Senate bill.

Obama has made immigration a top priority in his second term, which he won last year with the help of Hispanics who gave him 71 percent of their votes over Republican challenger Mitt Romney, who called on the undocumented to self-deport.

Voters’ opinion of the Supreme Court slipped after the five Republican-appointed justices overturned a key provision of the Voting Rights Act that was renewed by Congress in 2006. The justices threw out the criteria by which states and localities were selected for federal approval before they could change their election rules.

The poll showed 45 percent approving of the court and 44 percent disapproving. That was down from 47 percent positive and 41 percent negative ratings in July 2012 and from 49 percent positive and 33 percent negative ratings in April 2010. U.S. Chief Justice John Roberts’ approval rating fell to 38 percent from 46 percent in July 2012 and 49 percent in April 2010.

The court’s decision opening the way to providing federal benefits to married same-sex couples was applauded by 62 percent and rejected by 34 percent. By 49 percent to 44 percent, respondents approved of same-sex marriage in their states.

The June 28-July 8 survey of 2,014 registered voters had a margin of error of plus or minus 2.2 percentage points.

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