DEMOCRATS believe Hillary Clinton is more likely to win the US presidency than her party rivals, a new poll has shown.
A new survey, carried out by Associated Press and GFK, found Mrs Clinton had regained traction in the 2016 primary contest following a summer slump, with nearly eight in 10 Democrats saying they had a positive opinion of her.
That represents a slight gain for the ex-US secretary of state and the wife of former president Bill Clinton, eight points better than the last time the question was asked in an AP-GfK poll in July.
Regarding an alternative to Mrs Clinton in the Democratic field, the poll found that current US vice president Joe Biden appeared more able to provide it than the insurgent campaign of Vermont senator Bernie Sanders.
Nearly seven in 10 Democrats said they had a favourable view of Mr Biden, who has spent months considering whether to jump into the race. Only about half of Democrats say that about Mr Sanders.
Mr Sanders is not necessarily unpopular among Democrats, but the long-time political independent and self-proclaimed democratic socialist is still not well known - a third said they did not know enough about him to have an opinion.
And it is not just Democrats who view Mrs Clinton as a possible winner. Three quarters of Americans think she could win in a general election - including two-thirds of Republicans.
By comparison, 56 per cent of Americans think Mr Biden could win and just 44 per cent think Mr Sanders could claim the White House.
Meanwhile, less than half of Americans said they think any of the Republican candidates for president could win in a general election.
Among Democrats, nine in 10 think it would be possible for Mrs Clinton to win if she were the nominee, while seven in 10 say the same of Mr Biden.
“Joe Biden should stay on the sidelines, he’s better that way,” said Alonzon McClendon, a 57-year-old warehouse manager in Dallas, Texas. “Clinton is more qualified.”
Democrats are split on whether Mr Sanders could win the election, with 52 per cent saying he could and 46 per cent saying he could not.
The gains for Mrs Clinton come after months of enduring criticism for her use of a private email account and server while serving as President Barack Obama’s first secretary of state.
The survey was conducted from October 15-19, after the first Democratic debate, and her strong showing there - the first of three high-profile events for Mrs Clinton this month - appears to have helped reassure supporters worried about the state of her campaign.
Mrs Clinton is due to give evidence before the House of Representatives committee investigating the deadly 2012 attacks in Benghazi, Libya, that killed four Americans.
She plans to use the hearing as an opportunity to lay out her foreign policy credentials, emphasising the importance of so-called “smart power” - using diplomacy to achieve gains in dangerous regions without traditional military action.