Washington — As if taken by high-powered aerial photography, a unique study of the American presidential battleground shows President Carter in a viselike squeeze between Republican Ronald Reagan and independent John Anderson.
The survey, which breaks the nation's quarter-million census communities into 40 neighborhood types, confirms other recent polls showing Mr. Carter in a close contest in either a two-man or three-man race.
Unlike other polls, which show Mr. Carter slightly behind Ronald Reagan, this survey puts the President marginally ahead of the former California governor. But it also shows in greater detail Mr. Carter's vulnerability to his rivals -- and particularly the Anderson impact -- up and down the socio-economic scale. And it shown the "unraveling" of the traditional Democratic coalition.
The study, an opinion survey of an unusually large number of voters -- 6,601 -- in a cross section of US communities, was completed May 22 by a consortium of four Washington political consulting and research firms, with Democratic Party ties.
Ironically , the survey shows Ronald Reagan running strongest in the poorest "hard times" rural regions as well as in the wealthiest "estate-limousine" suburban tracts. But Mr. Reagan also carries the battle to Mr. Carter in "blue chip," blue-collar communities in cities and suburbs. In a two-man race, the result is close: Jimmy Carter 45 percent and Ronald Reagan 42 percent, with 13 percent undecided.
Mr Carter is in even more trouble in a three-man race. His margin shrinks to one point -- 37 percent -- with Mr. Reagan at 36 percent, John Anderson at 19, and 8 percent undecided. Mr. Anderson also draws heavily form Mr. Carter in Democratic blue-collar strongholds as well as almost across the board from the expected Democratic nominee.
Of the 40 community types profiled in the survey, Mr. Anderson's presence in the race would leave the Carter-Reagan race unchanged in 5, would hurt Mr. Reagan in 8, and would erode Mr. Carter's margin in the remaining 27.
Mr. Anderson would take 20 points from the Carter column in the heavily single and prosperous "bohemia" urban white-collar neighborhoods, 13 percent in "ethnic row house" blue-collar neighborhoods, 12 percent in "heavy industry" communities where white ethnics and Latinos live, and 9 percent from Mr. Carter's support among black-Latino, service-job "urban blue-collar" voters.
At the upper end of the income scale, Mr. Anderson takes 13 percent from President Carter among affluent single "Central Parker" Americans in urban centers, 11 percent from voters in "money and brains" comminities around universities, 10 percent among "young influential" urban white-collar workers, 8 percent among rich "estate-limousine" voters, and 7 percent among "young money" professionals who live in the suburbs.
For Mr. Reagan, Congressman Anderson's presence in the race means a loss of relatively few votes among any of the 40 voter blocs. Mr. Anderson takes 5 points from Mr. Reagan's support in "old melting pot" middle-income city neighborhoods and "Levittown" planned suburban tracts. Mr. Anderson's presence results in a three-point erosion for Mr. Reagan among "bleached-collar" upper-middle-income urban voters and better-educated "white-collar exurbanites."
The Anderson impact could grow markedly by election time, says Paul Lutzker, president of Targeting Systems Inc. (TSI), one of the firms sponsoring the voter study. One-third of the voters surveyed "still could not rate Mr. Anderson."
In polls, the lesser-known candidate and not the well-known, has the room to grow," he says.
Mr. Carter's staunchest support appears to be the lower socioeconomic brackets. In a three-man race, with Mr. Anderson included, Mr. Carter scores a high of 63 percent in mostly poor and black "urban renewal" neighborhoods and 55 percent in "piney woods" Southern low-income comminities.
Moving up the income scale, Mr. Carter would take 59 percent of the vote in heavily black "emergent minority" urban neighborhoods, 50 percent in "light industry" areas with mixed black and white voters. In his next strongest areas, Mr. Carter would gain 43 percent among three groups -- "Slavic blue-collar" voters, the better- educated "midblacks in big cities, and the "bohemia" urbanites who tend to be single, white-collar, and upper-middle-income renters.
Mr. Reagan scores best, in a three-man race, among the "hard times" rural poor -- 52 percent. His next best showings cover the socioeconomic spectrum, indicating broad instead of narrow ideological support.
Among traditional Republican blocs Mr. Reagan takes 48 percent of the "grain belt" lower-income vote, 48 percent among stable, small town "Tom Sawyerville" communities, and 47 percent among the "estate-limousine" well-to-do, as well as 45 percent in "old brick factory" urban areas.
Mr. Reagan would attract 19 percent of the Democrats in a three-man race as opposed to 23 percent in a two-man race with the President, the survey shows.
At this stage of the contest, Mr. Carter would clearly benefit from Mr. Anderson's removal from the race, the survey authors say. Among all types of communities, one-half of Anderson voters would go to Mr. Carter and one-third to Mr. Reagan in a two-man race.
The voter survey was made by the newly formed TSI; Hamilton & Staff, a political research firm; Matt Reese & Associates, political consultants; and Claritas Corporation, a market research firm. Presidential polls summary
As this year's likely presidential candidates prepare for the summer's campaign activities, pollsters find that if the election had been held on the day of the latest polls:
Reagan Carter Anderson Gallup: 36% 35%23% Roper: 34% 29% 20% ABC/Harris: 39% 34% 24% Constortium: 36% 37% 19% More detailed breakdown of the polls -- Page 14. Latest presidential polls
1. Poll by consortium of four Democratic-related survey groups (margin of error plus or minus 2%):
Between Carter and Reagan Carter 45% Reagan 42% Between Carter, Reagan, And Anderson: Carter 37% Reagan 36% Anderson 19%
2. Gallup poll (margin of error of plus or minus 4%):
Between Carter and Reagan Reagan 45% Carter 42% Between Carter, Reagan, and Anderson: Reagan 36% Carter 35% Anderson 23%
3. ABC/Harris poll (margin of error plus or minus 3%):
Between Carter and Reagan: Reagan 51% Carter 44%
Between Carter, Reagan, and Anderson if voters do not believe Anderson has a real chance of winning: Reagan 39% Carter 34% Anderson 24%
Between Carter, Reagan, and Anderson, if voters believe Anderson has a real chance of winning: Reagan 35% Carter 31% Anderson 31%
4. Roper poll (margin of error plus or minus 3%):
Between Carter and Reagan: Reagan 40% Carter 36% Between Carter, Reagan, and Anderson: Reagan 34% Carter 29% Anderson 20% Undecided vote makes up the difference in each case between percentage totals and 100%.