The latest reading of President Carter's standing with the American people offers further bad news for the president, but the picture is not all bleak.

Carter's overall popularity rating has drifted downward steadily over the last 12 months - from 67 percent in July 1977 to 39 percent in the latest survey. Although there has been a bottoming out since April, the current 39 percent approval represents his low point to date.

Paralleling this overall decline in the percentage who say they approve of Carter's performance in office is a decline in the percentage of Carter enthusiasts - that is those who express strong approval. This proportion has declined from 42 percent in March 1977 (when the first measurement of intensity was taken) to 11 percent today.

In terms of the president's handling of "domestic problems in general," 56 percent disapprove and 32 percent approve. When the focus is narrowed to specific domestic problems - namely, those related to the economy - the president scores poorly on handling inflation (66 percent disapprove, 22 percent approve) and on economic conditions (62 percent disapprove, 28 percent approve). On the question of dealing with unemployment, the president fares somewhat better, with 36 percent expressing approval and 45 percent disapproving.

The president's ratings improve, however, when it comes to noneconomic issues and international problems.

For example, those who approve of the way Carter is dealing with "environmental problems and pollution" outweigh those who disapprove, 48 to 31 percent.

On the president's dealing with the energy situation, about as many approve (41 percent) as disapprove (42 percent).

The president scores better on foreign policy concerns (46 percent disapproves, 37 percent approve) than he [WORD ILLEGIBLE] domestic problems (56 to 32 percent).

Specifically, on the Middle East situation, approval slightly outweighs disapproval, 39 to 36 percent. Carter fares less well in terms of "handling relations with Russia," but the vote is fairly close, with 43 percent expressing disapproval and 34 percent approval.

The president continues to be viewed by the overwhelming majority of Americans (8 in 10) as a man of "high moral standards." Solid majorities also continue to regard him as "bright" and "intelligent" as a "likeable person," as "displaying good judgment in a crisis," as "sympathetic to problems of the poor" and as "a religious person," a decided plus in religiously oriented America.

In assessing the president's current popularity ratings, it should also be borne in mind that Carter, like previous chief executive, is to a considerable extent a victim of the times.