Hillary Clinton's popularity has taken a 9-point hit in the wake of the Benghazi scandal, but she would still beat leading Republicans if the next presidential election were held today, a new poll finds.
The former first lady and secretary of state's favorability rating fell from 61 percent in February to 52 percent now, according to the survey from Quinnipiac University.
But Clinton would win handily in match-ups with two possible GOP rivals for the White House: Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, the poll shows.
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"Clinton remains the queen of the 2016 hill at this point, but the wide gap between her and some of the leading Republican contenders on favorability may be closing, as her overall favorability has taken a hit," said Peter Brown, assistant director of the Connecticut university's polling institute.
"Her score is down substantially from her all-time high," Brown said. "One reason for her drop may be that 48 percent of voters blame her either a little or a lot for the death of the American ambassador in Benghazi."
The survey gave Clinton a lead of 8 percentage points over both Paul and Bush, the only two of several possible Republican White House contenders included in the May 22-28 poll. Clinton topped Paul, 49 percent to 41 percent, and led Bush 48 percent to 40 percent.
Vice President Joe Biden, another potential 2016 Democratic hopeful, trailed both Republicans. Bush would beat Biden, 44 percent to 38 percent, while Paul led the vice president, 43 percent to 39 percent.
Ambassador Christopher Stevens was among four Americans killed in the Sept. 11, 2012, attacks by terrorists on the American consulate in Benghazi, Libya. Republicans accuse White House officials of initially discounting the terrorism link because of concerns about the impact on President Barack Obama's re-election bid. The State Department also has been criticized for ignoring warnings from intelligence agencies about inadequate security in Libya before the attacks.
Clinton's favorability rating stood at 52 percent positive to 40 percent negative. Bush was viewed equally by voters 29 percent positively and 29 percent negatively. Paul had a 32 percent favorability rating to 24 percent negative.
The poll showed 42 percent of respondents didn’t know enough about either Republican to express an opinion.
Biden was viewed negatively by 44 percent and positively by 37 percent.
"If Ms. Clinton chooses not to run in 2016, the potential Democratic field could include a somewhat unpopular vice president and a number of new faces who are unknown to the vast majority of Americans," Brown said.
The poll also delivered a mixed message about one of Obama's top second-term goals: a revision of U.S. immigration policy. Many support one of the proposal's main, and most controversial, elements -- yet most doubt an overhaul will pass.
A majority of voters -- 54 percent -- favor a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants, a key component of bipartisan legislation passed by the Senate Judiciary Committee earlier this month and headed to the full chamber for debate in June. The measure also would toughen border security.
In the poll, 29 percent backed deportation of undocumented immigrants, with 12 percent saying they can stay while not being allowed to become citizens.
Almost three-quarters, 71 percent, said they don't expect an immigration bill to become a law.
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"There isn't a lot of confidence outside the Beltway in the ability of those in Congress to play nice and be productive," Brown said.
The telephone survey of 1,419 registered voters has an error margin of plus or minus 2.6 percentage points.
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