Most Americans welcome the increased number of women in the armed services and say they think women should have access to more jobs - such as jet fighter pilots and missile gunners - that now are closed to them, according to a survey by the National Opinion Research Center (NORC) at the University of Chicago.
The survey results also showed that most Americans found the ratio of blacks in the armed forces (about 22 percent) and in the Army (33 percent) ''about right.'' Most, and particularly blacks, also argued that Hispanic representation in the military should be increased.
''The military is probably the most thoroughly desegregated institution in the United States,'' says James Davis, senior author of the report and chairman of the Harvard University Sociology Department. ''On the one hand, there is pride that it is a bellwether, but there is also enormous concern in some Washington circles that the ethnic mix could one day lead to an all-black military. . . . This survey suggests the American people might not be unhappy about what disproportion there is and would be satisfied to go further before it stops,'' he says.
Most Americans say they think the all-volunteer system is working well or fairly well. They strongly oppose a return to the draft except in a national emergency. If there were a draft, however, most Americans say women should be included. One-third, especially working women as opposed to men and housewives, favor hand-to-hand combat duties for women.
Although the American military establishment has taken a verbal battering from its critics over the years, the military as an institution ranks a high fifth in the NORC survey - well ahead of the Supreme Court and most other Washington fixtures.
''With the exception of Vietnam, there has hardly been a historical situation where the military has come off badly in popular thinking,'' Professor Davis notes. ''This survey suggests no evidence that Americans have become cynical.''
NORC's annual public opinion survey for the first time included questions on the military. Those data have just been analyzed with the help of special Ford Foundation funding.