Atlanta — Former vice-president Walter F. Mondale's choice of Rep. Geraldine A. Ferraro (D) of New York as his running mate may not help him in the South - a region where he is considered to be far behind President Reagan already.
It might even hurt him a little.
These are the impressions conveyed during informal interviews with 21 registered voters here. Many expressed strong feelings that a woman should not run for high political office, that her place is in the home. But many who express this view say they are already backing Mr. Reagan.
Several Southern governors, including Florida's Bob Graham, have said they think a woman running mate will help Mr. Mondale.
Of the 21 people interviewed the day of the Mondale announcement, only three said they might switch from their normal Republican or independent status to vote for Mondale. Three others said the decision pushes them to vote for President Reagan instead of Mondale. The other 15, a mix of Democrats, Republicans, and independents, said the decision would have no effect on their vote. One of them, a white male, said it might help Gary Hart at the convention next week by turning people away from Mondale.
''It's time women have a chance to show what they can do,'' says voice teacher Betty Colson, who calls herself an independent voter. Mondale's choice of a woman running mate, she says, pulls her ''very strongly toward Mondale.''
In a furniture store, bookkeeper Carter Stocks expresses the opposite view: ''I do not think it's in a woman's makeup to be in charge of the country.'' She normally votes Republican, she said.
A number of white men expressed a similar view - that women are not capable of high political office. Several suggested women stay home.
In the Rainbow Restaurant, cashier Linda Hobby said a woman ''has no place in politics.'' She is a Democrat but feels strongly enough about Mondale's decision that she might vote Republican, she said. Waitress Sandy Horn, however, thought the choice of a woman running mate was ''great.'' She normally votes Republican but this might swing her back to voting Democratic, she said.
Brenda Scott, a black librarian, is still for Gary Hart. She questions Mondale's ''motivation; his honesty'' in selecting a woman. She also wishes he had considered a qualified black woman.
Black heating contractor Lewis Charles, who normally votes for Democrats, says the decision may make him vote Republican. ''Families are torn apart now; this will add to this women's liberation, which I'm totally against,'' he said.
Like about half the 21 voters, Elliott Goldberg, a white real estate broker, sees nothing wrong with a woman running mate, ''if she's qualified.'' He is an independent, who says he is not very impressed with Mondale.
Mail carrier James Williamson, lugging a hefty bag of mail over one shoulder, says he thinks Mondale is ''grasping at straws'' in naming a woman. The choice makes little difference to him, he said, adding that he will probably vote Republican anyway.
Bank employee Jean Ivey paused in front of a laundromat, clothes bag in hand, to say she respects Mondale's decision. But she will probably vote for Reagan again, she says.
Georgia Gov. Joe Frank Harris wanted a Mondale running mate who provided ''ideological balance'' to the ticket. Representative Ferraro's presence may appeal to women and Italians, as Atlanta Mayor Andrew Young notes, but does not appear to provide the balance Governor Harris hoped for.