Utahns believe Republican John McCain made the right move in picking Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin as his running mate, according to a new Deseret News/KSL-TV poll.

A significant 73 percent of registered voters surveyed statewide believe Palin will help McCain's chances of beating Democrat Barack Obama at the polls in November.

But even though Utahns like Palin, she didn't push McCain's numbers any higher in the state. He'd pull in 62 percent of the vote if the election were held today. That's the same percentage McCain earned in a Deseret News/KSL-TV poll in May.

Pollster Dan Jones said Utahns believe Palin can help McCain nationally.

"There is no question the people of Utah are enamored with Palin," Jones said. "There is no question Palin has helped the ticket very, very much."

The new poll of 601 registered voters statewide was conducted by Dan Jones & Associates Sept. 8-11 and has a margin of error of 4 percent.

As for Obama, his pick of Sen. Joe Biden, D-Del., won't make much of a difference in the eyes of Utah voters, according to the poll.

Obama is trailing McCain by 38 percentage points in the state.

A Utah Democratic Party official questioned the "biased" results of the poll, saying the timing is suspect.

"It doesn't even come close to representing what we'll see in the final election, because unfortunately taking a poll in this time frame produced a biased poll," said Todd Taylor, executive director of the Utah Democratic Party. "You're immediately coming at the close of the Republican convention at the highest bounce. Nobody has heard anything but Sarah Palin for the last few days. How much more biased could you get?"

Palin, Alaska's first female governor and youngest ever to lead the state, has dominated the TV airwaves since the convention, with hefty doses of both positive and negative reports. Those range from accolades from Alaskans about her performance as governor to reports about her pregnant, unmarried teenage daughter.

According to the poll, many Utahns were already set in their support of McCain before he picked Palin as his running mate: 39 percent said the vice-presidential pick will make no difference in their vote, while 41 percent of registered Utah voters said Palin will make them more likely to vote for McCain.

Tim Bridgewater, McCain's Utah-based Western regional states coordinator, said the polls are shifting nationwide and a small percentage of Obama supporters are switching allegiances.

"Clearly they have sided with the Republican ticket," Bridgewater said. "We are seeing a good shift. It's still a horse race."

Bridgewater said McCain made a wise move in selecting Palin as his running mate.

"The pick of a Washington outsider with management experience running a state, and the fact that she is a woman, all those factors combined strengthen our chances of winning the White House in November," he said.

Jones said things could change when voters see McCain and Palin take on Obama and Biden in the debates.

"Will they continue the momentum?" Jones asked. "The real turning point will be when they have the (vice-presidential) debate Oct. 2."

McCain passed up Utah favorite Mitt Romney for Palin, but Utah voters feel no ill will toward McCain, according to the poll. In fact, 66 percent of those polled said the snub will make no difference in whether they vote for McCain.

Romney, the leader of the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City and a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, pulled in 90 percent of the vote in Utah's winner-take-all Feb. 5 GOP presidential primary.


E-mail: ldethman@desnews.com