Only a slim majority of Utahns believe officials should spend public money to support the 1998 Winter Olympics, although a strong plurality favor Salt Lake City hosting the Games, a Deseret News/KSL-TV poll shows.

Salt Lake City will go before the U.S. Olympic Committee in June in hopes of becoming "America's choice" to host the Games. In 1991, the USOC's choice will go before the International Olympic Committee, which will ultimately select the host city.Salt Lake Mayor Palmer DePaulis says the city can't win the Games without using tax dollars, which he says would be recouped through TV programming profits, ticket sales and other Games revenues.

Some 52 percent of those surveyed by Dan Jones & Associates favor using tax dollars. Forty-two percent said tax dollars should not be spent on the Olympics.

Olympic backers are lobbying the Legislature to commit $2 million a year for 10 years to build the $40 million to $70 million in Olympic facilities the USOC wants America's choice to provide. The facilities must be built even before the IOC chooses a host city, USOC officials say.

Before the state commits money to the Winter Olympics, however, lawmakers want assurances from the USOC that the organization will stand by Salt Lake City until it is selected to host the Games.

Anchorage, Alaska, was the USOC's choice for the last two selection proceedings before the IOC. But Anchorage wasn't picked by the IOC, and now the IOC is entertaining other bids. Utah officials don't want the USOC to be such a fickle suitor.

Public money aside, 76 percent of those surveyed said they are in favor of the Games coming to Utah, while 20 percent oppose them. Officials say the Games would bring a $980 million into Utah's economy.

In any case, Utahns are feeling better today about hosting the Games than they did several years ago. Jones found in a 1985 poll that 68 percent of those surveyed favored the Games.

In the latest poll, Jones found that 86 percent favor a vote on the Games before state and local governments commit tax money. Officials have already said they would hold one if the city wins the USOC bid. The balloting would likely be held in fall of this year.

Would you favor or oppose Salt Lake City hosting the 1998 Winter Olympics?

Strongly favor 53 percent

Somewhat favor 23 percent

Somewhat oppose 5 percent

Strongly oppose 15 percent

Don't know 4 percent

Should Utahns vote on whether to hold the Olympics in Utah?

efinitely should 16 percent

Probably should 36 percent

Probably should not 14 percent

Definitely should not 28 percent

Don't know 5 percent

Sample size: 601; margin of error plus or minus 4 percent