With only two weeks left before election day, Democratic gubernatorial candidate Ted Wilson continues his slow but steady slide; independent Merrill Cook continues to gain; Republican Gov. Norm Bangerter stays the same; and the three tax-cutting initiatives are losing favor, the latest Deseret News/KSL-TV poll shows.

In the U.S. Senate and House races, public opinion has changed very little. The incumbents hold steady, in some cases, insurmountable, leads.Wilson is still ahead in the governor's race, found pollster Dan Jones & Associates in a just-completed survey. But his slide in the polls has brought him to within seven points of Bangerter.

Jones surveyed 602 people statewide on Oct. 18-19 and found that if the election were held today, 40 percent said they'd vote for Wilson, 33 percent said Bangerter and 21 percent said Cook. Six percent said they are undecided. The poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percent.

Two weeks ago, Jones found that 43 percent favored Wilson, 33 percent Bangerter and 20 percent Cook. So, Wilson has lost three points, Bangerter has stayed the same and Cook has gained one point.

The latest poll is good news for the governor; Wilson is within striking distance. But Bangerter has to do more than just stay at 33 percent - a support level he's been stuck at throughout the summer.

Jones did find that among registered votes and those who said they are very likely to vote, the gap narrows a bit - Wilson's support drops to 39 percent and Bangerter's goes to 34 percent. Cook comes in at 21 percent again.

Wilson knows he's in for a tough final two weeks. At a Democratic Party rally on Thursday, Wilson said he knows the polls are getting closer, and his final push may make the difference. (Wilson's campaign finished its own poll this week that also shows the race getting closer.)

New TV advertisements for the Wilson, Bangerter and Cook campaigns are either on the airways or soon will be.

Jones said that, traditionally, when people switch from one camp to another they go into the undecided ranks first, so the fact that Wilson has lost 3 percentage points and the "undecideds" has gone up three points in the last two weeks is a trend Bangerter should like. However, every time Wilson loses some support _ and that support comes from those who consider themselves traditional Republican voters _ it seems to be going to Cook, not Bangerter, Jones' polls show.

While the governor's race is narrowing, support for the tax initiatives is losing ground.

Jones found that if the election were today, 40 percent would vote for Initiative A, 49 percent would vote against it and 11 percent are undecided. Initiative A would limit property taxes and government growth.

Initiative B is also behind, 42 percent favor it, 50 percent oppose it and 8 percent don't know. That initiative would roll back the 1986 tax increases.

And Initiative C is just about finished. Jones found that 61 percent now oppose it, only 32 percent favor it and 8 percent are undecided.

Initiatives A and B were favored by most Utahns just several months ago. The tax limitation movement sprung up in 1986 when Bangerter recommended a $220 million tax hike. Lawmakers gave him a $165 million tax increase, and Bangerter's popularity dropped like a rock. He's been fighting that battle ever since. Bangerter and Wilson oppose the initiatives. Cook, who was a Republican, jumped into the governor's race as an independent and supporter of the initiatives after it became clear that the Republican Party would renominate Bangerter.

In the federal races, Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, still holds a commanding lead over Democrat Brian Moss, 67-24 percent.

The 1st Congressional District race between Rep. Jim Hansen, R-Utah, and Democrat Gunn McKay is still a 10-point difference. Jones found Hansen ahead 53 percent to 43 percent. Because Hansen-McKay races have been close over the years, Jones polled 310 people in that district to get a more accurate survey.

In the other two congressional races, Jones polled 200 people in each district.

Rep. Wayne Owens, D-Utah, maintains his strong lead over Republican Richard Snelgrove, 54-29 percent. Four percent said they'd vote for Libertarian Michael Lee and 14 percent were still undecided.

And Rep. Howard Nielson, R-Utah, still holds a huge lead over Democrat Robert Stringham, 60-21 percent. American Party candidate E. Dean Christensen got 6 percent support and 13 percent were undecided, Jones found.


Governor's race

Norm Bangerter (Republican) 33%

Ted Wilson (Democrat) 40%

Merrill Cook (Independent) 21%

Don't know 6%

Initiative A

Definitely for 20%

Probably for 20%

Probably against 13%

Definitely against 36%

Don't know 11%

Initiative B

Definitely for 25%

Probably for 17%

Probably against 14%

Definitely against 36%

Don't know 8%

Initiative C

Definitely for 20%

Probably for 12%

Probably against 16%

Definitely against 45%

Don't know 8%

U.S. Senate

Orrin Hatch (R) 67%

Brian Moss (D) 24%

Robert Smith (American) 1%

Don't know 7%

1st Congressional District

Jim Hansen (R) 53%

Gunn McKay (D) 43%

Don't know 5%

2nd Congressional District

Wayne Owens (D) 54%

Richard Snelgrove (R) 29%

Michael Lee (Libertarian) 4%

Don't know 14%

3rd Congressional District

Howard Nielson (R) 60%

Robert Stringham (D) 21%

Dean Christensen (American) 6%

Don't know 13%