Most men and women say they are generally happy with their relationships and largely feel that they are receiving the emotional support they need from their romantic partners, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News public opinion survey.

The national poll of 1,505 men and women offers a far more optimistic view of modern relationships than the picture of widespread dissatisfaction painted by feminist researcher Shere Hite in her new book, "Women and Love: A Cultural Revolution in Progress."

"I think Shere Hite's study results were too dire, and that probably the results of this poll are a bit sunny, but closer to the truth," said University of Washington sociologist Pepper Schwartz, coauthor of "American Couples," a study of relationships in the United States.

"The majority of men and women are working very hard to find satisfaction with their relationships, and many of them have it," Schwartz said. "There's better communication than there used to be. There is better sharing of tasks than we had before."

The Post-ABC poll found that many of today's couples report equality in their relationships. Where relationships still fall short, however, is in communication. Women continue to complain that men don't talk about their feelings enough, and almost one in four men agrees.

Women also said that they are more likely to give their husbands emotional support than their husbands are apt to give them, and about 30 percent of men interviewed agreed.

Hite's new book also touches on these themes. Her previous two volumes relied on questionnaires to examine female and then male sexuality, and "Women and Love" used the same technique to gather its raw material. The applicability of her conclusions to the whole population has been doubted by experts, largely because only 4.5 percent of 100,000 surveys were returned.

Hite concludes that almost all women are dissatisfied in their relationships with men and feel that they give more emotional support than they receive. In domestic arguments, many men become competitive and refuse to listen to the woman's point of view, according to Hite. Moreover, men continue to treat women as intellectual inferiors.

The discrepancies between the two studies, Hite said in an interview yesterday, exists because "the questions {in the Post-ABC poll} are based on my findings and not on the questions that I asked to get my findings." She said her survey was superior to the Post's technique because she asked open-ended, rather than multiple choice, questions, and she used anonymous questionnaires instead of telephone interviewers. "I can't stress the {importance of} anonymity of my work too much," she said. "In that way, people feel free to say whatever is on their mind."

According to the Post-ABC poll, 97 percent of men and women rate their romantic relationships as good or excellent. Hite, by contrast, said 84 percent of women are dissatisfied.

Richard Morin, director of polling for The Washington Post, said the results should be interpreted with care. "Telephone surveys like this might be expected to overstate satisfaction with personal relationships and understate, to a significantly greater degree, the extent of socially unacceptable behavior such as adultery," he said.

The finding, for example, that 97 percent of marriages are deemed "good" or "excellent," he said, probably reflects people's reluctance to report unhappy relationships. But "it does suggest, at least to me, that most married people find that their relationships, however imperfect, are more good than bad."

One of the most surprising of Hite's claims is that 70 percent of women married five or more years are having affairs. The Post-ABC poll found that most Americans -- three out of four -- consider Hite's estimate to be "too high."

Both sexes place great importance on their romantic relationships, according to the poll. In this age of the so-called "me generation," almost half of married men, and 38 percent of married women, ranked their relationship with their spouse as the "most important" thing in their lives. Among single men and women, 94 percent ranked their love relationship as "one of the most important things."

By comparison, Hite says in her book, 84 percent of women rank being in a relationship as one of the first priorities in life, but feel that most men do not give it the same priority.

On the subject of interpersonal communications, the Post-ABC poll found, about two thirds of married people said they felt that their partners speak about what they are thinking and feeling often enough to satisfy them.

But communication could still be improved: More than two out of five married women said they would like their husbands to ask them more often about their thoughts and feelings. Only one out of five married men wanted their wives to talk more about what they were thinking and feeling.

Most of those surveyed said they are satisfied that their partners listen to what they have to say if the talk is serious. When tempers flair, more than 90 percent of single people and about 86 percent of married people said that the fights tend to clear the air. By comparison, Hite says that only 16 percent of women found fights to clear the air and lead to a better understanding.

Marriage, despite the fact that half of American marriages end in divorce, remains a goal of most single adults, according to the Post-ABC poll. Among people who have never married, some 74 percent of men and 79 percent of women would like to take a trip down the aisle one day.

The Washington Post-ABC News poll interviewed 1,505 adults nationwide. The margin of sampling error for the overall results is plus or minus 3 percentage points, and somewhat greater when results are reported on a portion of the sample. The interviews were conducted Oct. 15 to 18 by telephone.

In addition to the issues addressed in the Hite book, the Washington Post-ABC poll describes how today's relationships, while far from perfect, are moving closer toward equality. Among the findings: The majority of men and women surveyed -- more than 80 percent -- feel that they are equal partners in their relationships. Almost half of married people in the poll reported that they are treated as intellectual equals. About 25 percent of married women and 40 percent of single women said that their partner considered them smarter. Most couples said they have small arguments from time to time. About 21 percent say they have "big arguments" at least sometimes, while 72 percent said they "hardly ever" have such fights. About half of married men and women report that they are the first to say "I'm sorry" after a disagreement. Among singles, men and women agreed that men apologize first slighlty more often than women do. Married men and women often exert equal control over the family finances. About 40 percent of men and women surveyed reported that they are equally responsible for money in their households. Where one partner exerted most control, it was usually the woman. More men vacuum and wash the dishes than did a generation ago, but household chores remain largely a woman's job. Only 18 percent of married couples reported that they pitch in equally with housework. Both sexes -- 72 percent of men, 78 percent of women -- reported that wives do more household chores than their husbands. When marriages go sour, women seem to be more likely than men to initiate divorce. Among divorced women, 74 percent said they had decided to seek the divorce. (Hite said 91 percent of divorces are initiated by women.) Sociologist Schwartz said one reason she favors the more optimistic picture of relationships is that today, it is easier than in the past to get out of a bad match.

"If things are really awful these days in a relationship, then people go elsewhere," said Schwartz. "The ones who stay in a relationship are going to be fairly pleased with it even if they have problems."

Men and women "are talking to each other," Schwartz said. "They are trying to be companions rather than just sharing space. They are not angry and miserable all the time."

Washington Post polling analyst Kenneth E. John contributed to this article.