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The 2016 Field Is Crowded – and Mostly Unpopular

Image: Scott Walker Campaigns In Wisconsin With Chris Christie

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (3rd L) and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (4th L) speak with the media during a campaign stop at Empire Bucket, a manufacturing facility September 29, 2014 in Hudson, Wisconsin. Stephen Maturen / Getty Images

America, these are your presidential candidates. And, so far, you don’t like ‘em that much.

For all the preparation and jockeying for the 2016 presidential campaign that’s taken place more than a year before the nomination process formally begins, most of the top White House contenders aren’t enjoying high ratings among the American public. Even the most positively-viewed potential candidates get nearly as much opposition as support, according to the latest NBC News/WSJ poll.

And, in a deeply polarized political climate, none of more than a dozen potential candidates asked about in the poll are close to having significant crossover appeal with the opposite political party.

Among the most well-known Republican candidates, just three can boast a net positive rating -- but barely: Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee.

Paul gets a positive rating from 26 percent of poll respondents, versus 23 percent who said they view him negatively. Twenty-one percent view Rubio positively, versus 19 percent who disagree. And Huckabee, a former presidential candidate himself, won good ratings from a quarter of Americans and poor marks from 24 percent.

Democrat Hillary Clinton, the most well-known possible candidate of all at 100 percent name ID, also has an overall positive rating by a similarly slim margin. Forty-three percent of respondents view her in a positive light, versus four-in-ten who say they view her negatively. (Her negatives among Republicans: a whopping 81 percent poor rating – nearly as bad as President Barack Obama’s.)

Other big-name potential contenders have more foes than fans.

More Americans have a negative view than a positive one of outspoken Texas Sen. Ted Cruz (16 percent positive / 26 percent negative), Texas Gov. Rick Perry (20 percent positive / 29 percent negative), and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush (26 percent positive / 33 percent negative). The same goes for possible Clinton rival Vice President Joe Biden (35 percent positive / 38 percent positive).

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, viewed as one possible favorite of the GOP establishment, has recovered slightly from underwater ratings earlier this year, after a scandal involving lane closures on the George Washington Bridge threatened to derail his presidential ambitions. In January, 29 percent viewed him negatively and just 22 percent viewed him positively; he’s now pulled even, 29 percent to 29 percent.

Familiarity breeds contempt?

The group of potential candidates who don’t have to worry about getting the proverbial raspberry from the American public might be facing a different problem: Many people don’t know who they are yet.

Case in point: Republican Gov. Scott Walker, who told the AP this week that it's “pretty obvious” that he should consider running for president, gets a positive rating from 15 percent of respondents – and a solid net positive of 27 percent from Republicans. But less of half of Americans recognize his name; 54 percent told pollsters they didn’t know of the Wisconsin governor.

Gov. Walker on 2016: 'We’ll See What the Future Holds' 1:01

Also relatively unknown is Ohio Gov. John Kasich; 61 percent of respondents weren't clear on who he is.

The most positively-rated potential candidate in the poll might be unrecognized by all but the most avid watchers of politics – and likely the audience of FOX News as well. Dr. Ben Carson, a retired neurosurgeon, cut ties with the cable network after more than a year as a contributor because of his reported presidential ambitions. While six-in-ten Americans can’t identify Carson, he enjoys an impressive 10 percent net positive approval rating among those who know him. That includes particularly high marks with Republicans – especially those who identify as Tea Party supporters.

Republicans struggle to corner the market in their own party

While they may struggle for approval – or relevance – among the public at large, potential candidates from both sides of the aisle enjoy support from within their own political parties.

But in comparison to the whopping 78 percent approval rating that Hillary Clinton gets from Democrats (who gets a thumbs down from just one in 20 members of her own party), Republicans struggle from the complications of a much wider field.

The most popular GOPer, among self-identified Republicans, is Huckabee, at 52 percent positive and just 8 percent negative.

But several others have disapproval ratings in the double digits from within their own party. That includes Cruz (12 percent), Jeb Bush (13 percent) and Perry (13 percent).

And Christie? Nearly one in five Republicans (19 percent) are giving back a dose of the New Jersey gov’s trademark bluntness – with a thumbs down.