Democratic gubernatorial candidate Ted Wilson has slipped a bit in his race against Gov. Norm Bangerter and independent candidate Merrill Cook, but Wilson still leads Bangerter by 19 points and Cook by 38 points.
A just-completed Dan Jones & Associates poll conducted for the Deseret News and KSL-TV shows if the election were held today, 49 percent would vote for Wilson, 30 percent for Bangerter, 11 percent for Cook, 1 percent for someone else and 9 percent didn't know.A little over a month ago, Jones found that 56 percent of those questioned favored Wilson, 28 percent Bangerter, 8 percent Cook, 1 percent other and 7 percent didn't know.
While Bangerter has improved slightly against Wilson, Jones found that the governor's job approval rating still wallows in the disapproval arena, with little improvement over time.
Asked if they approve or disapprove of the job the governor is doing, 51 percent said they somewhat or strongly disapprove, 45 percent said they somewhat or strongly approve and 4 percent didn't know.
In January 1988, Jones found that 54 percent disapproved of the job Bangerter was doing, 43 percent approved and 2 percent didn't know.
Jones questioned 607 adults in
the latest poll, taken May 31-June 1, and the results are accurate to plus or minus 4.0 percent.
The movement against Wilson by Bangerter and Cook tells Jones "all the candidates' support is still soft. Any head-to-head contests now are volatile and can change rapidly," he added.
This is the first Jones poll that has shown any significant shift in Wilson's support. The April poll results were very close to those of a poll Jones conducted in March 1987, a year earlier. The fact that Bangerter hadn't moved against Wilson in a year worried some Republicans, who are now glad to see the governor gaining on the Democratic challenger, if only slightly.
Said Bangerter: "This tells me that (ilson's) support is not strong, and we know that it isn't. He's dropped below 50 percent, as we knew he would. He was up in the 60 percent range, so he lost quite a bit. As the election gets closer, it will really become a race."
"Obviously, some Republicans are going home (o Bangerter)," said Wilson. "You never like to go down in the polls, but it was inevitable and we knew it. This is not a serious erosion of support; as you lose a little the rest of your support solidifies, and my bedrock support is very, very good. Dropping below 50 percent isn't significant in a three-way race."
Jones found that among Republican and/or somewhat conservative voters, Wilson has lost some support and Bangerter and Cook have gained that from that loss. Still, 35 percent of those who say they're Republicans said they'll vote for Wilson, and 46 percent who say they're somewhat conservative said they'll vote for the Democrat. Among those most likely to vote, Wilson got 50 percent, Bangerter 30 percent and Cook 11 percent.
Cook said his upward swing is just the beginning. "Republicans and independents who went to Wilson are rethinking, giving me a look and coming to me," he said. "I'll end up grabbing 15-16 percent from Wilson and winning this race."
Bangerter said he isn't concerned that Cook, who draws more Republicans from the governor's camp than he does Democrats from Wilson, has gained in the latest poll. "The fact is, in the long run Merrill Cook won't be governor. As people come to realize that the votes that count are votes for Norm Bangerter or Ted Wilson, we'll see a change in that (ook's standings)," Bangerter said.
Because Bangerter faces an intraparty challenge from school teacher W. Dean Samuels in Saturday's Republican State Party Convention, Jones matched the two together in a primary race. He found that 48 percent of those questioned favor Bangerter in a primary, 28 percent want Samuels, 7 percent favor someone else and 17 percent didn't know.
Bangerter does better among just those who said they're Republicans: 60 percent said they'd vote for Bangerter, 23 percent Samuels, 3 percent other and 14 percent didn't know. All registered voters can vote in party primaries.
Samuels said his 28 percent showing is amazing. "I've been blacked out by the press - zero coverage - yet I still get 28 percent. That's because people want a choice in a primary election, and I'm the choice," he said. "I believe I will get 31 percent of the (tate) delegate vote because the delegates believe that Republican voters should have that choice."
The governor doesn't expect such a primary election Sept. 13. "I certainly think we will get 70 percent or more of the delegate vote in the convention," he said. A 70 percent majority eliminates all other contenders and wins the party nomination for the leading candidate.
Wilson also has an intraparty challenger, David E. Hewett. Wilson crushes Hewett in a Democratic primary head-to-head, 75 percent for Wilson, 6 percent for Hewett, 3 percent other and 16 percent don't know. The State Democratic Convention is June 25.