They like Hillary in 2016. But they want her to fight for it first.

A national poll from Monmouth University released Monday finds that Hillary Rodham Clinton is the top choice of Democrats as the party's next presidential nominee, though a substantial number also think she should be challenged in a primary.

When asked whom they would like to see as the party's candidate, 48 percent of respondents volunteered Clinton's name, to 6 percent for U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, and 2 percent each for Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders and Vice President Biden.

"When nearly half of Democratic voters volunteer the name Hillary Clinton as their choice for 2016, it's hard to deny that she is the clear front-runner," said Patrick Murray, director of the Monmouth University Polling Institute in West Long Branch, N.J. "At the same time, Democrats do not want to the nomination process to be a coronation."

The poll asked participants to name a preferred candidate without providing a list of names from which to choose. Six in 10 expressed a preference, while 32 percent said they were undecided, and 7 percent said they did not plan to support a Democrat for president in 2016.

About four in 10 (43 percent) Democratic voters thought it would be wise for the party to coalesce behind Clinton, a former first lady, secretary of state, and U.S. senator from New York, early in the nominating process. But more - 48 percent - said it would be better for the party if she faced an active primary challenge.

Clinton was widely seen as the front-runner in the party's 2008 primaries before Barack Obama's early victories. The bruising state-by-state contest that followed sharpened both candidates' messages and energized the Democratic base as it stretched out the battle for the nomination.

In the Monmouth poll, Democratic men (56 percent) were more likely than women (42 percent) to prefer a contested nomination. While 53 percent of professed Clinton supporters said they would like to see the field cleared for her, a significant number, 41 percent, said they would like to see their favored candidate tested by competition.

Monmouth University conducted telephone interviews with 1,008 U.S. adults over age 18 between Dec. 10 and 14.

The poll results are based on a sample of 386 registered voters who identified themselves as Democrats or as leaning toward the Democratic Party. The findings are subject to a margin of error of plus or minus 5 percentage points.

On Tuesday, the university's polling institute plans to release results for the 2016 Republican presidential race.

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