Public Policy Polling: Perry’s Social Security comments are already hurting him

You know how you’re not supposed to mess with Texas? Well, someone needs to tell the Governor of Texas not to mess with Social Security:

Americans strongly disagree with the statements Rick Perry made about Social Security in last week’s Republican Presidential debate, and Barack Obama has nearly doubled his lead over Perry nationally in the span of just 3 weeks.

Only 20% of voters agree with Perry that Social Security is a Ponzi scheme to 70% who dissent from that statement.  Democrats (4/87) and independents (20/69) are pretty universal in their disagreement with Perry and even Republicans (39/49) don’t stand with him on this one. When it comes to the possibility of actually ending Social Security voters are even more unanimous- 82% oppose taking that step to only 10% who would be supportive of it.  If Perry ends up as the Republican nominee and Democrats can effectively convince the electorate that he does want to end Social Security it could be an extremely damaging issue for him.

In fact it appears that Perry’s rhetoric on Social Security could already be causing him problems.  When PPP did a national poll three weeks ago Barack Obama led Perry by only 6 points at 49-43.  Now that gap has widened to 11 points at 52-41.  The main movement has come with Democratic voters.  On the previous poll Obama had only a 68 point lead with the party base at 81-13 but now it’s 80 points at 89-9.  We know there are a lot of Democratic voters disenchanted with Obama right now but if the GOP puts forward someone like Perry who’s willing to go after one of the Holy Grails of the party’s orthodoxy like Social Security it might scare those voters back into the fold.

People have reasonably expressed concerns that, in the face of a bad economy, even Perry’s heretofore way out-there comments about Social Security might not be enough to keep him from winning the White House. This still might be the case—it depends on how and this hypothetical bad economy is, I suppose. But let’s not get too clever for our own good, here: some truisms are actually true, and I think the untouchability of Social Security in the public mind is one of them. In fact, it very well may be the case that, during hard economic times, Social Security becomes even more of a holy third rail of fire and brimstone and lightning bolts and pestilence, too, for politicians.

In any event, congrats to Mitt Romney’s press team; their day just got way, way easier.