WASHINGTON (CBS DC) — The crowded field of Republican candidates for the 2016 presidential election is a welcome change from the 2012 choices, with 57 percent of registered GOP-leaning voters expressing a positive view of their candidates.

A new Pew Research Center survey finds that a majority (57 percent) of Republican and Republican-leaning voters are positive about the current field of candidates. Forty-six percent of these GOP voters said the candidates running for the party’s presidential nomination are “good,” 11 percent said the candidates are “excellent,” about one-third (32 percent) said the candidates are “fair” and 8 percent said the current Republican hopefuls are “poor.”

The Pew survey found that former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush is the most well-known among registered GOP voters, but he also has the most unfavorable rating, with 35 percent of Republican-leaning voters viewing him unfavorably. Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee had the highest favorability rating (54 percent), with Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, Bush and Sen. Marco Rubio all holding majority favorability ratings.

Democratic and Democratic-leaning voters were slightly less impressed (54 percent positive) with their field of candidates, although they are facing a completely different issue with only two candidates – Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton – having officially announced their intention to run for president in 2016.

Democratic-leaning voters expressed massive support for Clinton, with 77 percent viewing her favorably to capture the party’s 2016 presidential nomination.

But Democrats are less positive than they were in September 2007, when a Pew survey found that nearly two-thirds of Democratic-leaning voters (64 percent) thought the candidates for the 2008 election were “excellent” or “good.”

This contrasts the May 2011 Pew survey that found only 44 percent of Republican-leaning voters had a positive view of their candidates to take on incumbent President Barack Obama in the 2012 election. That percentage reflects the same lack of positivity from Democratic voters in 2004 looking to take on George W. Bush.

The latest Pew survey also revealed an increased interest in the presidential campaign, with two thirds (66 percent) of registered voters saying they are giving at least some thought to the presidential contenders a year-and-a-half from the 2016 elections. But just 29 percent of registered voters say they are giving “a lot” of thought to candidates potentially running in 2016.

And the crowded GOP field is still yet to hear official announcements from many expected candidates such as New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, former Texas Gov. Rick Perry, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush.

The Republican National Committee is still debating how to organize the nearly two dozen potential and official candidates for the party’s nomination. Steve Duprey, the chair of the RNC debate committee, said last week there was a “consensus” to limit the number of people on the debate stage to between nine and twelve. But chief RNC strategist, Sean Spicer, told reporters there would be no cap to the number of candidates allowed on-stage to debate.