(CNN) — Who among the nascent field of 2016 contenders represents the future? For half of Americans, it’s Hillary Clinton.
Asked in a new CNN/ORC poll whether seven possible candidates better represent the future or the past, 50% said Clinton evoked the future, more than said so of any other candidate. By contrast, Joe Biden and Jeb Bush, whose names have been in the political conversation even longer than Clinton’s, were each seen as representing the past by 64% of Americans.
Even some relative newcomers to national politics are more closely linked to the past than the future. Half said New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie represents the past, while 43% said he represents the future. On Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, 49% thought he represented the past, 41% the future. And 42% thought Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker represented the past, 39% the future.
Overall, across the field of seven, just two were deemed more “future” than “past,” and both were women: Clinton (50% future, 48% past) and Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren (46% future, 37% past).
Both Clinton and Warren prompt significant gender gaps, with women more likely than men to call each a representation of the future. Among men, 53% see Clinton as a representation of the past, while 55% of women see her representing the future. On Warren, women see her as more future than past by a 50% to 32% margin, while men split evenly, 43% on each side.
Democrats generally see their own possible presidential contenders as representative of the future. Among Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents, 74% called Clinton a candidate who represents the future, 61% said so of Warren and 51% of Biden.
Last month, Mitt Romney bowed out of the presidential race with a nod to his party’s future, saying he hoped “one of our next generation of Republican leaders, one who may not be as well-known as I am today” would wind up better prepared to beat the eventual Democratic candidate.
But Republicans don’t see the field as particularly future-oriented. Of the four Republican candidates tested, a majority of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents rated two of them as more representative of the future than the past, Walker (55%) and Paul (53%). Fewer saw Christie (49%) or Bush (47%) that way.
Walker gained ground among Republicans in the race for the party’s presidential nomination, the poll showed, while Christie and Bush both faltered. The shuffling field also saw a double-digit gain in support for former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, who now tops the field with 16%. The national survey found Huckabee closely followed by Bush at 14% (down 9 points), Walker at 11% (up 7 points) and Paul at 10%. Ben Carson lands in fifth with 8% and Chris Christie at sixth with 7% (down 6 points). No other candidate tops 5%.
Walker’s gains are concentrated among older voters. He leads the field among those age 65 or up with 22%. Among Republicans under 50, Huckabee and Paul fare better than they do among their 65 and over counterparts.
Among conservative Republicans, it’s a three-way tie: 15% each say they’d be most likely to support Bush, Huckabee and Walker, with 10% each behind Carson and Paul.
The poll finds less change on the Democratic side. Clinton still leads the field with 61%. Her next closest competitor, Biden, has gained six points since December and stands at 14%. Warren follows at 10%. Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, former Virginia Sen. Jim Webb and former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley all remain in the low single digits.
As overseas turmoil riles President Barack Obama’s approval ratings for handling foreign affairs, terrorism now joins the economy at the top of voters’ priority lists as the 2016 contest kicks off. Forty-two percent called terrorism an extremely important issue in their presidential vote, on par with the 41% calling the economy that important. Education (40% extremely important) and health care (39% extremely important) also rank near the top.
Sharp partisan divides in priorities emerge outside the economy and health care. On terrorism, 87% of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents say it’s extremely or very important, compared with 78% of Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents. Republicans are more likely than Democrats to call illegal immigration an important issue (74% among Republicans vs. 55% among Democrats), while Democrats are more apt to prioritize the income gap (75% among Democrats vs. 45% among Republicans) and global warming (63% among Democrats vs. 23% of Republicans).
The CNN/ORC International poll was conducted February 12-15, 2015, and interviewed 1,027 adult Americans, including 436 Republicans and independents who describe themselves as Republican, and 475 Democrats and independents who describe themselves as Democrats. Results for all adults have a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3 points. For results among Republicans or Democrats, it is 4.5 points.