The more Americans know about the Panama Canal treaties, the more likely they are to favor Senate ratification of the pact, lending support to President Carter's thesis.

When those surveyed who have not heard or read about the debate over the treaties (26 per cent) are given a brief description of the pact and are asked to vote on it, they vote it down by nearly a 2-to-1 ratio 39 to 23 per cent with 38 per cent undecided).

However, when the results are limited to just those who have heard or read about the debate (74 per cent), opinion is more closely divided, with 48 per cent opposed, 40 per cent in favor, 12 per cent undecided.

Finally, the survey measured the views of the [WORD ILLEGIBEL] answer three key questions about the pact: the year the canal is to be turned over to the Republic of Panama, whether or not the United States has the right to defend the canal against third-nation attacks and whether or not the biggest U.S. aircraft carriers and supertankers are able to use the canal.

The vote among this "better informed" group - the one person in 14 who can answer all three questions correctly - is 5 to 4 in favor of the treaties.

The survey reveals a serious lack of knowledge about the treaties, with about four in 10 Americans aware that the United States has the right to defend the canal, only about one in four aware that the canals is to be turned over in the year 2000 and only about one in seven aware that aircraft carriers and supertankers cannot use the canal.

The poll was taken between Sept. 30 and Oct. 3.

Overall the poll shows 36 per cent favoring the treaties, 46 per cent apposed and 19 per cent undecided, regardless of awareness of details of the treaties.

These results show a slight drop in approval from Gallup poll released in early September, when 39 per cent favored the treaties, 46 per cent were opposed and 15 per cent undecided. The earlier poll, however, was designed before the treaties were written and asked respondents their views based on a brief summary that stated, incorrectly, that the United States would "maintain control over the land and installations necessary to operate and defend the canal" after the turn of the century.

Those who have heard or read about the debate were asked what they regard as the best arguments in favor of and against the treaties. Here are the responses, in order or frequency of mention: BEST ARGUMENTS IN FAVOR

1. A good public relations move - remove stigma of colonialism.

2. Canal is not important to U.S. interests.

3. Maintaining canal is too expensive.

4. To avoid a conflict/prevent hostilities.

5. Not giving it totally away - we would be able to defend it against attack from third nation.

6. It belongs to the Panamanians - it's part of their land. BEST ARGUMENTS AGAINST

1. U.S. has economic stake in canal.

2. U.S. should not pay them to take the canal.

3. Panama may not stick to terms of treaties.

4. They will soon keep us from using the canal at all.

5. Communists will take it over.

6. Canal is important to our national security.

7. We built and paid for it - we should keep it.