A new poll of likely U.S. voters shows New York Senator Hillary Clinton maintaining her frontrunner status among Democratic voters in next year's presidential race, with former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani leading the Republican field. VOA's Michael Bowman reports from Washington.

The Quinnipiac University poll shows Senator Clinton with 36 percent backing among Democrats, up one percent from a survey in June, with strong support among women and working class voters. Illinois Senator Barack Obama is holding steady in second place, at 21 percent, and is favored among Democrats with college degrees.

Former Vice President Al Gore, who has stated he has no intention of running for office, polled third with 15 percent support, ahead of former North Carolina Senator John Edwards at nine percent.

Mrs. Clinton may lead the Democratic field, but the news is not all positive for the one-time first lady, according to the head of the Quinnipiac Polling Institute, Maurice Carroll.

"Trailing her is a big 'Hillary hostility' factor which does raise questions, feeds those doubts about [whether she] can win in November [in next year's election]," he said. "Forty-eight to 43 percent, Americans tell the poll they have a favorable impression of her. But 43 is a big number, the negative side, and that is the highest of any of the candidates."

Months ago, some analysts predicted that Senator Obama, whose father was Kenyan, would eventually receive overwhelming backing from black and other minority voters. But the Quinnipiac poll shows no such trend to date, with Senator Clinton doing well among all racial and ethnic groups within the Democratic Party.

Among Republicans, Rudy Giuliani leads with 28 percent support, up one percent from June. Former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney comes in second with 15 percent, followed by actor and former Tennessee Senator Fred Thompson with 12 percent and Arizona Senator John McCain with 11 percent. Mr. Thompson has yet to formally announce his candidacy.

Carroll notes that Giuliani is pro-choice on abortion and favors legal rights for homosexual couples - positions that do not endear him with the socially-conservative base of the Republican Party. But he says the former mayor has one great strength that propels him to the top of the Republican field:

"It's 9/11. Rudy Giuliani was mayor of New York City when the terrorists attacked and destroyed the World Trade Center. His performance then in rallying the city, reassuring the city - and to an extent the nation, earned him all sorts of plaudits and that is his big pitch. Of those who are for him, more than a third cited his performance after 9/11, his anti-terrorist credentials," he said.

How would top Democratic and Republican contenders fare if the presidential election were held today? The Quinnipiac poll shows Hillary Clinton edging Rudy Giuliani 46 to 43 percent, and a draw between Giuliani and Barack Obama at 42 percent each. The poll did not pose a hypothetical match-up of Mitt Romney against a Democratic challenger.

Such polls provide only a snapshot of public opinion at the time they are conducted. The first contest of the presidential primary season is still months away, in January, and the general election is more than a year off.