A new poll this week suggests that Mitt Romney's strategy to go after Rick Perry for his Social Security rhetoric isn't resonating with the Republican base. But it is hurting Perry's support among independents.
According to a Gallup survey released Friday, almost half of Republican voters either approve or don't mind that Perry refers to Social Security as a "Ponzi scheme"--a metaphor that even the liberal economist Paul Krugman and several others across the political spectrum have used for the program. Only 19 percent of Republicans said Perry's rhetoric made them less likely to vote for him.
The poll found that nearly one in four Republicans said Perry's rhetoric does not change their opinion of him, while 19 percent said it makes them more likely to support him. Another 36 percent said they did not know enough about the matter to have an opinion.
The same is not true, however for independents, who were, in large part, turned off by Perry's comments. More than 30 percent of independent voters said they were less likely to support him over the issue and 40 percent said it would hurt his chances of winning the election.
The survey was conducted by telephone on Sept. 13 and Sept. 14. The responses from the 591 Republicans have a margin of error of plus or minus 5 percentage points. The responses from the 823 independents have a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percentage points.
Perry and Romney both support overhauling Social Security, but they have spoken of two very different approaches to reform.
In his book, Fed Up, Perry wrote favorably about a plan to transfer control of Social Security to the states from the federal government--and he has reiterated his support for that idea in recent interviews and candidate debates.
Romney himself compared Social Security to a criminal fraud in his book No Apology, and he has in the past supported privatizing the program by creating individual accounts, similar to 401k's, for younger workers. Recently, however, he has spoken more often about preventing the federal government from spending Social Security revenues on other programs.
Even in Florida, the state with the highest rate of Social Security beneficiaries in the nation, most Republicans are unfazed by Perry's statements.
A new InsiderAdvantage poll of Floridians who intend to vote in the state's Republican primary has Perry ahead of Romney by 9 points, with 29 percent of Republicans saying they would vote for the Texas governor and 20 percent saying they would vote for the former governor of Massachusetts. The survey has a margin of error of plus or minus 4.5 percentage points.
Romney's attacks on Perry over Social Security have struck a nerve with older voters, but that's it. Perry leads Romney in every age demographic in the state except for those who are 65 and older, where Romney has the edge with 31 percent to Perry's 23 percent.
The Republican presidential candidates will have another chance to woo the Sunshine State next week at a debate in Orlando on Sept. 22.