(CNN) - Hours before the second Republican presidential debate to be held in Florida in the past week and a half, Texas Gov. Rick Perry is slightly ahead of former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney in the Sunshine state, according to a new poll.
The Quinnipiac University survey released Thursday morning also indicates that President Barack Obama's approval rating is at an all time low in a state that will play a crucial role next year in both the GOP nomination battle and the general election.
According to the poll, 28 percent of Republicans and independents who lean toward the GOP say if the Florida primary were held today, they'd support Perry, who launched his bid for the White House last month and quickly became the front-runner in national polling. Twenty-two percent say they'd back Romney, who's making his second run for the nomination and who was the front-runner in national polling before Perry entered the race. Every other candidate registered in single digits in the survey.
The poll is the first in Florida to be conducted since the Republican candidates faced off on the same stage at a CNN/Tea Party Republican debate on September 12 in Tampa. The candidates meet again Thursday night at a Fox News/Republican Party of Florida debate in Orlando.
Quinnipiac last polled in Florida in early August, before Perry entered the race. Romney has barely moved since that survey and Perry has jumped 15 points.
Florida is expected to hold its primary early in the primary and caucus season and should be a crucial state in choosing the Republican nominee. Florida is also expected to continue to be an extremely important battleground state in next year's general election.
According to the survey, 57 percent of all Florida voters say they disapprove of how the president's handling his duties, with 39 percent giving Obama a thumbs up on what he's doing in the White House. That's the worst score for the president in Quinnipiac polling in Florida. By a 53 to 41 percent margin, Sunshine state voters say that Obama doesn't deserve a second term as president.
In hypothetical 2012 general election matchups, Romney has a 47 to 40 percent margin over the president, with Obama holding a 44 to 42 percent margin over Perry, which is well within the poll's sampling error. The poll indicates that the president leads Perry by six points among independent voters, with Romney topping Obama by nine points among independents.
"Gov. Rick Perry has the lead – and the momentum – among Florida Republicans, while former Gov. Mitt Romney can point to a better general election showing," said Peter A. Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute.
The Quinnipiac University poll was conducted September 14-19, with 1,007 registered voters in Florida questioned by telephone. The survey's overall sampling error is plus or minus 3.1 percentage points, with a sampling error of plus or minus 5.1 percentage points for questions only directed to Republicans and independents who lean toward the GOP.
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