Democratic gubernatorial candidate Ted Wilson has lengthened his lead over Republican Gov. Norm Bangerter, while independent candidate Merrill Cook continues to creep upward in the race, a new Deseret News/KSL-TV poll shows.

Pollster Dan Jones & Associates found that if the election for governor were held today, 51 percent of those questioned would vote for Wilson, 28 percent for Bangerter, 13 percent for Cook, 1 percent for someone else and 7 percent didn't know.

If the election for governor were held today and the candidates were Norm Bangerter, Republican; Ted Wilson, Democrat; and Merrill Cook, independent; for whom would you vote?For the governor, the results of Jones' latest survey must be disheartening. Just last month, Jones found that Bangerter had gained on Wilson, if only slightly. Wilson dropped 8 points in the June poll while Cook gained 3 points over the month before.

While only a 2 point gain, had the progress in the June poll continued, Bangerter had some hope of closing the gap on Wilson.

But the latest poll shows that Bangerter has slipped back to only 28 percent support - the same place he was over a year ago, right after he and the Legislature imposed the largest tax increase in the state's history.

Wilson has gone from 49 percent in the early June poll to 51 percent in the latest poll, a gain Bangerter supporters can't like.

Wilson started running TV advertisements in June in an attempt to shore up his support. His gain may be attributed to those spots.

Meanwhile, Cook continues to make inroads. Three months ago Cook was at 8 percent, Jones found. Last month, Cook rose to 11 percent support. Now he is at 13 percent. While his increases are slight, they're better than going in the wrong direction, as Bangerter has.

The general feeling in the Republican camp is that should Cook get out of the race for any reason - he denies he will - Bangerter would be helped. Since there are twice as many Republicans as Democrats in Utah, and since polls show that twice as many

Republicans support Cook than Democrats, his exit would help Bangerter, Republican leaders figure.

But Jones found otherwise. When the 13 percent who said they support Cook were asked whom they would support if he got out of the race - Wilson or Bangerter - only 26 percent said they'd switch to the governor. Wilson got 54 percent of the Cook vote, 9 percent went to someone else and 11 percent didn't know whom they would vote for if Cook got out.

Thus, Jones found, Wilson would be helped more by Cook's departure than Bangerter.

Many of Cook's supporters are tax protesters - citizens who favor the three initiative petitions that would cut and limit taxes.

Bangerter has an ongoing feud with the tax protesters. He won't support their petitions (either will Wilson) and many tax protesters see the governor as a traitor to conservative ideals. The leader of the tax limitation movement, Greg Beesley, has said if he had only Wilson and Bangerter to choose from, he'd pick Wilson.

Tax limitation supporters tried to get Cook nominated in last month's GOP state convention so he could challenge Bangerter for the party's nomination. They failed in that attempt, but the party was publicly embarrassed by the clear split over Bangerter's candidacy.

Considering that Cook's supporters are, by and large, conservatives, it's clear there is considerable anti-Bangerter feeling among them if they'd turn to a Democrat before a Republican alternative.


Bangerter 28 percent

Wilson 51 percent

Cook 13 percent

Other 1 percent

Don't know 7 percent

(asked of those who said they are voting for Merrill Cook). If Merrill Cook were not a candidate for governor, for whom would you vote: Norm Bangerter, Republican, or Ted Wilson, Democrat?

Wilson 54 percent

Bangerter 26 percent

Other 9 percent

Don't know 11 percent

Sample size: 603; margin of error plus or minus 4 percent