With just three weeks before Salt Lake City's bid for the 1998 Winter Games goes before the U.S. Olympic Committee, 70 percent of those in the latest Deseret News/KSL-TV poll still want Salt Lake City to host the Games.

Pollster Dan Jones & Associates found that 48 percent strongly favor hosting the Games while 22 somewhat favor the Games.Jones also found that 78 percent of those who want the Games would still favor them even if taxpayer money was used to pay for some of the facilities up front. The USOC already has said several facilities must be built.

While Olympic support dwindled slightly from a February poll, which showed 76 percent favored hosting the Games, the Salt Lake Winter Games Organizing Committee remains confident of local support.

"I'm not sure that (the latest) poll shows a material difference - it is fairly close to the margin of error," said Mike Zuhl, chief of staff to Salt Lake Mayor Palmer DePaulis and a member of the organizing committee.

Public backing for the Games is important for the city's bid because organizers have promised to hold a fall referendum on the Olympics if the city emerges victorious after a June 4 USOC meeting in Des Moines, Iowa.

USOC members who will choose the U.S. bid city know that Utah voters must support the Games if the city is to deliver a bid to the International Olympic Committee, which, in 1991, will choose the host city.

"I'm personally confident that can be done," said Zuhl, who added that an information campaign focusing on the benefits of the Games would win over Utah voters in the referendum.

"If we're successful in Des Moines, that support level is going to increase further," he said.

Twenty-six percent of the poll respondents said they opposed the city's bid. Of the 70 percent who responded favorably, 78 percent supported the Games even if tax dollars were spent, a positive percentage, Zuhl said.

"The majority of the public are willing to accept public support of bringing the Games to Utah," he said. "The organizing committee is very encouraged by that part of the response."

*****

(Poll)

In June, the U.S. Olympic Committee will meet to select America's bid city for the 1998 Winter Games. Do you favor or oppose Salt Lake City being selected?

Strongly favor 48 percent

Somewhat favor 22 percent

Somewhat oppose 10 percent

Strongly oppose 16 percent

Don't know 4 percent

Of those who favor the Olympics, do you still favor them if taxpayer funds are used up-front to finance the Games with a promise to pay the money back if possible?

Definitely favor 48%

Probably favor 30%

Probably oppose 11%

Definitely oppose 9%

Don't know 2%

Sample size: 614; margin of error plus or minus 4%