Specifically, the Gallup survey shows that, among Republican voters without a college degree, Perry tops the field with 27%, followed by Romney with 15%, Ron Paul with 14% and Michele Bachmann with 11 percent. Among Republican voters with at least a four-year college degree, Perry has rocketed to the top with 33.4%, dwarfing Romney's 21 percent, Paul's 10 percent, and Bachmann's 9 percent.
Looking at the results by income tell the same story. Perry leads Romney by at least 10 percentage points among voters in all four income categories Gallup reported. Among Republicans earning between $2,000 and $5,000 monthly, Perry leads by 29% to 18%: among those earning $7,500 per month or more, Perry maintains a 31% to 22% advantage.
This broad appeal for Perry may be overstated in that it comes before he has truly engaged with his rivals for the nomination. It's entirely possible that his support will narrow as his opponents spar with him more directly; for instance, if former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman, who lags at just 1 percent in the survey, continues his criticism of Perry's rejection of the science of climate change and questioning of evolution, it's possible that the Texas governor's backing among college-educated voters might erode.
Already in the survey there are also some signs of the potential limits on Perry's support. He runs much better among voters who identify themselves as conservatives than those who consider themselves moderate or liberals; likewise, he runs better among Republicans who attend church regularly than those who don't. And Perry polls much better in the South (39 percent) than anywhere else. Each of those patterns could benefit Romney in coastal states, which tend to be more secular and moderate, even in the GOP.
Yet overall, the groups in which Perry now displays the most strength -- including self-identified conservatives and regular church-goers -- represent a bigger share of the GOP primary electorate than moderates and less devout voters. And his ability to reach across class lines distinguishes him from Sarah Palin, who last year might have seemed Romney's principal potential rival. Palin's appeal was always concentrated much more among non-college Republicans and that trend, like a table tipping on its edge, has dramatically intensified in the new poll. When Palin, who has suggested she's still mulling the race, is included in the latest Gallup Poll, she attracts support from just 3% of college-educated Republicans, compared to 15% of those without degrees.
One other good sign for Perry: among regular church-goers in this survey, he's already eclipsed Bachmann, his most serious competitor for the votes of evangelicals and other religiously-devout Republicans. Among Republicans who attend church at least once a week, Perry draws 34 percent -- double Romney's 16 percent, and more than triple the 9 percent supporting Bachmann.
It may not last as he engages more sharply with the other contenders, but Perry's ability in this survey to outpoll both Bachmann among the devout and Romney among the well-educated shows the Texas governor's opportunity to build a broader coalition than either of his principal rivals.