Although trailing Ronald Reagan and Jimmy Carter nationally, independent John B. Anderson is still very much in the running in at least of two key states -- Massachusetts and Connecticut.
At a time when several national polls indicate the Illinois congressman's support is slipping, a Massachusetts voter sample shows him locked in a three-way contest with President Carter and Mr. Reagan.
The Massachusetts poll, conducted by the Boston-based Becker Research Corporation, involved interviews with some 500 residents across the Bay State. It found Reagan with 27 percent, Carter, 26, and Anderson, 24 percent. Twenty-three percent said they were undecided.
This follows by less than a week a survey by the University of Connecticut's Institute of Social Inquiry. The institute's poll showed an even closer scramble in its state. Of 500 questioned, 29 percent favored Reagan, 28 percent Carter, and 27 percent Anderson.
Anderson activists, including state campaign chairman John S. Ames, hold that the major portion of the undecided bloc could be theirs and are determined to add support from this direction.
"Our biggest hurdle is convincing voters not so much that our candidate is attractive but that he can win," Mr. Ames explains. He concedes, as the Becker poll suggests, that Anderson will take more votes from Carter than Reagan in Massachusetts.
"In other states, such as California, the Anderson candidacy will cost Reagan more potential votes than the President," he adds.
According to Ames, results of the poll will not cause changes in the independent candidate's strategy in the commonwealth.
The Illinois congressman, who was in the Bay State for a fund-raiser and brief campaigning Sept. 27, is due back to address a meeting of editors from throughout the region on Oct. 7. And on Oct. 24, he returns for what is expected to be a full day of campaigning.
Meanwhile, efforts to place Anderson's name on as many state ballots as possible are winding down. Notification of acceptance has been received from 47 states and the District of Columbia. Certification is expected within the next few days from New York, where Anderson will run as the Liberal Party's presidential choice, and in Vermont, where petition signatures still are being checked.
But Anderson's ballot status is still in doubt in Georgia. A federal judge, Sept. 25, overturned a state court ruling and cleared the way for printing the state's ballot with the independent candidate's name on it.
The decision, now being appealed by Georgia Secretary of State David B. Poythress, concluded that at least 3,060 of the 16,170 disallowed signatures on Anderson papers were valid.
While political observers say Anderson has virtually no prospect of carrying Carter's home state, the independent is particularly anxious to be on the ballot there as they are in California, Reagan's home turf.