Five Republicans tied atop 2016 US presidential race: Poll

Campaign buttons featuring Republican presidential hopefuls are seen on display during the 2015 Southern Republican Leadership Conference on May 21, 2015 in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. -- PHOTO: AFP
Campaign buttons featuring Republican presidential hopefuls are seen on display during the 2015 Southern Republican Leadership Conference on May 21, 2015 in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. -- PHOTO: AFP

WASHINGTON (AFP) - Five White House hopefuls are tied atop the Republican nomination race, a national poll released Thursday showed, making it anyone's guess who will battle likely Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton in 2016.

The group, which includes former Florida governor Jeb Bush, who has yet to declare his candidacy, and Senator Marco Rubio, was clustered at 10 per cent support each, with none beating Clinton in head-to-head matchups.

Also bunched at the top, according to the Quinnipiac University poll, are three arch-conservatives: Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker; former Arkansas governor, onetime preacher and Fox television show host Mike Huckabee; and retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson, the only likely African-American in the crowded Republican field.

Libertarian-leaning Senator Rand Paul, in the spotlight recently for his opposition to the US government's controversial surveillance of millions of Americans, earned seven per cent, while rival Senator Ted Cruz came in at six per cent and business magnate Donald Trump received five per cent.

In a sign of how large numbers of Americans have yet to begin processing the early stages of the presidential race, 20 per cent of respondents said they did not yet have a favoured candidate.

"Safe to say, the 2016 Republican presidential primary is anyone's race," said Quinnipiac's assistant director Tim Malloy.

"With no front-runner and identical numbers for the top five contenders, it's a horserace which can only be described as a scrambled field - at least so far." With the GOP nomination contest wide open, the Democratic side was all about Clinton.

Clinton, aiming to become the nation's first-ever female president, earned 57 per cent support - a three-point drop compared to an April 24 Quinnipiac poll, but still well ahead of socialist-leaning US Senator Bernie Sanders, with 15 percent.

Vice President Joe Biden, who has flirted with a run but has yet to take many of the steps seen as prerequisites to a campaign launch, was third at nine per cent.

Martin O'Malley, a recent two-term Maryland governor who is expected to launch his presidential bid Saturday, barely registered with one percent support.

In hypothetical matchups with her Republican rivals, only Paul and Rubio posed threats. Clinton came out on top 46 per cent to 42 per cent against Paul, and 45-41 versus Rubio.

Clinton cruised against the other Republicans, including a 47-37 advantage over Bush, the son and brother of two former presidents.

But on qualities seen as important for the highest executive office, it was a mixed bag for Clinton.

Voters by 53 to 39 per cent said Clinton is not honest and trustworthy, but they responded 60-37 per cent that she has strong leadership qualities.

They are split, 48-47, over whether Clinton cares about their needs and problems.

"Can you get low marks on honesty and still be a strong leader? Sure you can," Malloy said.

"Hillary Clinton crushes her democratic rivals and keeps the GOP hoard at arm's length."

The May 19-26 poll surveyed 1,711 registered voters nationwide, and it has a margin of error of plus or minus 2.4 percentage points.