D.C. Council Chairman David A. Clarke holds a nearly 3-to-1 lead over former council member Douglas E. Moore in the all-important Sept. 9 Democratic primary race for council chairman, according to a Washington Post poll.

Clarke, a 12-year veteran of the council who is completing his first term as chairman, is running ahead of Moore in all of the city's eight wards and among all age groups and income and education levels, according to the survey completed last week.

Among potential black voters, Clarke, who is white, leads Moore, a black minister and businessman, by better than 2 to 1. White respondents likely to vote in the primary favor the incumbent by an even greater margin, the poll showed.

Yet nearly six in 10 of the residents surveyed had no opinion of Clarke, either favorable or unfavorable. Clarke, who considered challenging Mayor Marion Barry before announcing in April that he would seek a second term as chairman, was viewed favorably by 35 percent of the poll's respondents and unfavorably by 7 percent.

Clarke's favorable-unfavorable rating was comparable to those of several of his colleagues, including council members Betty Ann Kane and John Ray, both at-large Democrats, and John Wilson (D-Ward 2). Council member Charlene Drew Jarvis (D-Ward 4), whose past campaign finances are the subject of several investigations, was viewed favorably by 43 percent of respondents and unfavorably by 16 percent. In all cases, large percentages of respondents said they had no opinion of the council members, who in this question were identified only by name and not by position.

Jarvis, Ray, Kane and Wilson were candidates in the 1982 Democratic mayoral race. Jarvis and Wilson considered running again for mayor this year but decided against it before the deadline for filing.

Council member Carol Schwartz (R-At Large), who is running unopposed in the Republican primary election for mayor, was viewed favorably by 28 percent and unfavorably by 8 percent, with 64 percent undecided. Her support appeared to be most solid among whites, who gave her a 41 percent favorable rating and a 9 percent unfavorable rating.

Moore said in an interview that the high rate of no opinion on Clarke among city residents indicates that the chairman has not been a strong leader and has not been willing to take hard stands on controversial issues. The lopsided results on the question of whom people would vote for does not discourage him, he added.

"He Clarke is the front-runner . . . but he has got a long row to hoe before the election," Moore said. "Moore hasn't even gotten out on the field. The voters don't know what the issues are yet."

Clarke said he was gratified by the level of support he received in the poll but would not become overconfident.

"The only poll that counts is the one that takes place Sept. 9," he said. "Overconfidence is the worst enemy of a front-runner."

About half of those polled approved of the job the council is doing, a quarter disapproved, and the rest said they did not know. However, the results suggest that a large percentage of District residents have not focused their attention enough on the council to have formed an opinion of its chairman or other members. Those with an opinion rate the individual council members favorably by a wide margin.

When asked whether they approve or disapprove of the way Clarke is handling his job, in a separate question that identified him as council chairman, 51 percent said they approved, 15 percent disapproved and 34 percent had no opinion.

By comparison, the mayor received a 52 percent favorable rating and 34 percent unfavorable rating, with 14 percent undecided.

The telephone poll was conducted July 12-16 and involved interviews with 1,063 District residents.

When asked whether they would vote for Clarke or Moore in the Democratic primary, 57 percent of the potential Democratic voters were for Clarke, 20 percent for Moore and 23 percent undecided.

Those percentages are based on the responses of 486 people surveyed who said they are registered Democrats and who said their likelihood of voting was at least 50 percent.

Moore, who entered the chairman's race in May, had run for the office in 1978, losing to Arrington Dixon in the Democratic primary by a 3-to-2 margin. Moore lost his bid to unseat council member William Spaulding (D-Ward 5) in the 1982 Democratic primary.

Clarke defeated Dixon and former chairman Sterling Tucker in the 1982 Democratic primary with 44 percent of the vote. That year, Clarke came from behind after trailing badly at the beginning of the campaign.

Clarke has viewed his role as chairman largely as that of coordinator of a council made up of 13 independent members rather than of a power broker pushing his own agenda.

During his years on the council, Moore was regarded as a flamboyant maverick who portrayed himself as the champion of the poor and routinely accused his colleagues of selling out to business interests.

Now he is describing himself as a conservative businessman and calls on blacks not to become dependent on welfare.

Moore, who operates an energy business and has been out of politics for years, has less recognition than Clarke among city residents but has higher negative ratings, the Post poll shows.

While nearly two-thirds of those questioned had no opinion of Moore, 22 percent viewed him favorably and 14 percent saw him unfavorably. This is the highest unfavorable opinion-favorable opinion ratio of any of the 13 officials the voters were asked to rate, except for President Reagan, who was viewed favorably by 30 percent of respondents and unfavorably by 53 percent, with 17 percent having no opinion.

Clarke's lead over Moore is greatest in Clarke's home base of Ward 1 and in Ward 3, west of Rock Creek Park, which has the largest concentration of whites.

Moore seems to have made the greatest inroads in Ward 6, an economically mixed area that includes Capitol Hill and parts of Anacostia, and in Ward 8 in far Southeast, the District's poorest ward.