The Numbers Are In: Americans Want an Experienced Candidate Running for President

Americans much prefer candidates like Bush and Clinton to those with shorter résumés.

Candidates with aspirations for the White House had better have some experience to back up their ambitions, a new Washington Post poll reveals.

A survey released Thursday found that 55 percent of respondents said it was more important to them that a presidential candidate have experience than a bold vision. Just 33 percent said they preferred to have someone who had a new vision for the country. That is good news for former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who both have long political legacies, executive experience, and familiar last names.

The poll shows Bush and Clinton as the favorites among their respective party's voters. While Bush's favorability rating was underwater, with just 33 percent of voters reporting a favorable opinion of him and a whopping 53 percent reporting a negative opinion, he still managed to lead his potential GOP competitors in a matchup. Twenty percent of Republican voters said they would cast ballots for Bush if the election were held today.

Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, who announced his candidacy last week, came in second with 13 percent of the support. Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker was a close third with 12 percent support, and Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, Dr. Ben Carson, Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie followed in that order with single digits.

When asked who they thought was "most likely" to be the GOP nominee for president, however, Bush's share increased, with 33 percent of respondents saying they expected him to be the guy.

On the Democratic side, Clinton continues to be the clear and barely challenged front-runner. In a matchup with Vice President Joe Biden, Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, former Sen. Jim Webb, and former Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley, 66 percent of Democratic voters said they would support Clinton in a Democratic primary if one were held today. Just 11 percent said they would support Warren or Biden. Sanders registered 4 percent, Webb had 2 percent, and O'Malley got 1 percent.

But, while Clinton and Bush are the clear leaders early in 2016, they both have more to prove to voters. Even among those who said they supported Bush, only 12 percent said they were "very enthusiastic" about him, 54 percent reported being somewhat enthusiastic, and more than 30 percent said they were either only mildly enthusiastic or not enthusiastic at all about voting for him.

For Clinton, who has battled reports in recent weeks that she kept her own private e-mail server while at State and has said in the past that she and former President Bill Clinton were "flat broke" when they left the White House, the challenge to prove to voters that she can understand their lives remains significant. When asked whether Clinton "understands the problems of people like you and me," the reviews were mixed, with 48 percent of respondents saying she does not and 47 percent saying she does. The sample was also divided over whether Clinton is honest, with 46 percent of people reporting she is and 46 percent reporting she is not.

In a general matchup, Clinton still leads Bush by 14 points, 54 percent to 40 percent. But this early on, with just one candidate officially in the 2016 fray and an entire field in flux, it's too early to say this race is merely between the two candidates with the most name recognition.