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Utahns overwhelmingly approve of the U.S. invasion of Panama, the latest Deseret News/KSL-TV poll shows, and they want Manuel Noriega captured and tried on drug charges.

They also give President George Bush the most favorable job performance rating ever seen by pollster Dan Jones & Associates.In a poll of 603 Utahns conducted by telephone Wednesday and Thursday, 88 percent definitely or probably approve of the invasion of Panama, which was required - according to Bush - to get rid of dictator Noriega.

As of Saturday evening, Noriega remained at large with thousands of U.S. troops hunting him in his country.

Noriega has been indicted by two U.S. federal grand juries on drug-trafficking charges. Jones found that 83 percent of Utahns want the United States to pursue Noriega, even if he has left Panama, and bring him to trial on those charges.

Noriega, in a radio broadcast from inside Panama the day after the invasion, said he would fight to the death and never surrender.

Jones found that 90 percent of Utahns give Bush a favorable job performance rating. "That is the highest I've ever seen on any politician, period," said Jones. "But it must be said that Utahns and Americans in general support their leaders in times of crisis."

Former President Ronald Reagan, who was well-loved in Utah _ the state gave him some of the largest majorities he had in his two elections _ never reached the 90 percent approval rating here. Neither have Sens. Jake Garn and Orrin Hatch, two relatively popular politicians.

Support for Bush's invasion runs across political party, geographic and economic lines, Jones found.

Only 3 percent believe the U.S. probably shouldn't have invaded; only 3 percent said we definitely shouldn't have invaded Panama.

And only 12 percent think we shouldn't pursue Noriega should he flee Panama, Jones found.

Jones' findings mirror several national polls taken since the invasion. Those polls show about 80 percent of Americans support the action.



Was the United States correct in its decision to invade Panama to remove Manuel Noriega from power?

Definitely 70 percent

Probably 18 percent

Probably not 3 percent

Definitely not 3 percent

Don't know 6 percent

If Noriega has left Panama, should the U.S. pursue him in an effort to bring him to trial on drug charges?

Strongly approve 51 percent

Somewhat approve 39 percent

Somewhat disapprove 8 percent

Strongly disapprove 1 percent

Don't know 1 percent

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