ORLANDO, Florida (Reuters) - Texas Governor Rick Perry leads rival Mitt Romney in Florida, where the Republican presidential candidates gathered on Thursday for another debate, a Quinnipiac University poll said.
The poll of registered voters showed Perry with 28 percent, followed by former Massachusetts Governor Romney with 22 percent. Former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin, who has not said whether she will run, was third with 8 percent.
But Perry tops Romney 31 percent to 22 percent if Palin stays out of the race to choose a Republican nominee to challenge Democratic President Barack Obama in the November 2012 election.
Romney's support in Florida has barely moved since he led the Republican pack with 23 percent in an August 4 Quinnipiac survey. Perry has surged from 13 percent in that survey, which was conducted before he formally announced his candidacy.
Obama won Florida in the 2008 election. But the Quinnipiac poll showed Florida voters disapprove of the job he is doing by 57 percent to 39 percent, his worst score in any Quinnipiac University poll in any state.
Asked if Obama deserved a second term, 53 percent of Florida voters said no and 41 percent said yes.
In possible 2012 presidential matchups, Romney tops Obama 47 percent 40 percent in Florida while Perry gets 42 percent to Obama's 44 percent, a statistical dead heat.
The poll surveyed 1,007 registered voters in live interviews via land lines and cell phones from September 14 to 19. The error margin was 3.1 percentage points overall and 5.1 percentage points for the Republican primary.
Voters in Florida, with the nation's highest concentration of senior citizens, say 58 percent 33 percent that it is unfair to describe Social Security as a "Ponzi scheme," as Perry has done. But among Republicans, the only ones allowed to vote in the state's closed primary, 52 percent say that is a fair way to describe the nation's retirement system.
Perry's position on Social Security leads 35 percent of Florida voters to think he wants to fix it, while 37 percent feel he wants to end it. Republicans, however, said 60 percent 14 percent that Perry wants to fix Social Security.
(Editing by Bill Trott)