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Rep. Wayne Owens has dropped precipitously in the polls during the past month, with nearly a third of his support fallen away, and Republican Joe Cannon now leads Owens in the U.S. Senate race, the latest Deseret News/KSL-TV poll shows.

The drop is one of the most drastic in recent campaigns and is due to publicity over Owens' involvement in the U.S. House bank problems.Owens is fighting the bad publicity, both in speaking engagements and new television advertisements. He says he believes he'll gain back those Utahns who - for now - have turned away from him.

Pollster Dan Jones & Associates found in a just-completed poll that if the election were held today, 36 percent would support Cannon and 22 percent would support Owens.

After those two candidates, support for other candidates drops to single digits. Democrat Doug Anderson gets 8 percent support, Republican Brent Ward gets 6 percent, Republican Bob Bennett gets 5 percent, Republican Ted Stewart gets 3 percent, Democrat Kyle Kopitke and Libertarian Maury Modine each get 1 percent, Socialist Workers candidate Patricia Grogan and Populist Anita R. Morrow get 0 percent support.

In a March poll, Jones found that Owens led the crowded U.S. Senate field with 36 percent support. Cannon had 29 percent support a month ago.

In his just-completed survey, Jones also matched Owens directly against Cannon. In that head-to-head, 57 percent said they definitely or probably would vote for Cannon, 31 percent said they would definitely or probably vote for Owens, 3 percent said neither and 9 percent didn't know.

Cannon and Anderson - Owens' main Republican and Democratic opposition - are clearly the beneficiary of Owens' overdraft problems. Cannon moved up7 percentage points, Anderson up 4 percentage points in the latest poll. Between the March and April poll, Owens dropped 14 percentage points among all candidates; he dropped 17 percentage points against Democratic candidates.

Owens has publicly apologized for his 87 check overdrafts, says he did nothing illegal or unethical. However, he says he understands citizens' anger because he did get a perk - interest-free overdraft protection - that regular citizens don't.

One of Owens' greatest chores now will be to beat back the challenge of fellow Democrat Doug Anderson. Jones found that Anderson benefits greatly from Owens' overdraft problems. In the latest poll, Owens leads Anderson 38 percent to 29 percent in a Democratic primary. In March, Owens led Anderson 55 percent to 12 percent.

Anyone can vote in a party primary, and Owens' 38 percent is among all Utahns. Among those who told Jones they are Democrats, Owens still leads Anderson 55 percent to 28 percent - a healthy lead. But in March, Owens crushed Anderson among Democrats, 75 percent to 13 percent.

Last week, Owens said the House bank overdrafts would likely mean a primary election for him - that he wouldn't be able to get 70 percent support in the state Democratic convention, thus eliminating Anderson and going directly to the November general election.

Here are some of the match-ups in the Senate race:

Democrats only percent

Wayne Owens 38%

Doug Anderson 29%

Kyle Kopitke 3%

None of above 14%

Don't know 16%

GOP candidates only percent

Joe Cannon 49%

Robert Bennett 9%

Ted Stewart 5%

Brent Ward 10%

None of above 8%

Don't know 18%

Possible final election percent

Definitely for Cannon 43%

Probably Cannon 14%

Definitely for Owens 18%

Probably Owens 13%

neither 3%

Don't know 9%


If the election for U.S. Senate were held today for whom would you vote?

Joe Cannon (R) 36%

Wayne Owens (D) 22%

Doug Anderson (D) 8%

Brent Ward (R) 6%

Robert Bennett (R) 5%

Ted Stewart (R) 3%

Kyle Kopitke (D) 1%

Maury Modine (Lib.) 1%

Patricia Grogan (Soc.) 0%

Anita R. Morrow (Pop.) 0%

Other 1%

Don't know 17%

Conducted April 21-23, 1992

Sample Size: 601 Error: +/- 4%