Republican Gov. Rick Perry's response after Hurricanes Katrina and Rita has fueled a surge in his job-approval rating and put him on firm footing heading into election year, according to a poll released Tuesday.

The Texas Poll surveyed 1,000 randomly selected Texans on behalf of Scripps Howard and several media outlets the last two weeks of November.

It found that Perry's once-low job-approval rating had climbed 10 percentage points since a September poll. Forty-nine percent of respondents in the recent poll said they approve of the way Perry is doing his job, and 37 percent said they disapprove.

Three months ago, those numbers were nearly reversed.

The polls have an error margin of plus or minus 3 percentage points.

"The hurricanes have absolutely done the governor a lot of good," said Ty Meighan, director of the Texas Poll. "That's what a lot of our respondents told us. They felt like he was compassionate for those who were displaced and that he fought to make sure Texas did not get stuck for the cost."

After Hurricane Katrina struck in late August, hundreds of thousands of evacuees came to Texas. Perry worked with Louisiana and local officials to help turn sports arenas and other large buildings into housing for them.

Two weeks later, thousands of Texans evacuated the coast in advance of Hurricane Rita. Perry was credited with leading an orderly but sometimes slow exodus.

Respondents who said they plan to vote in the Republican primary March 7 favored Perry over Comptroller Carole Keeton Strayhorn 55 percent to 24 percent.

Among all respondents, Perry would handily defeat Democratic hopeful Chris Bell and independent Kinky Friedman in a three-way race in November, the poll found. Forty-six percent of respondents supported Perry, compared with 25 percent for Bell and 13 percent for Friedman.

Perry is seeking to become the first Texas governor to serve 10 years in office. He filled the last two years remaining when George Bush left the governor's office early to become president, then was elected to his current four-year term.

The other campaigns insisted that the numbers would change once Texans get past the holidays and focus on the 2006 elections.