By more than 3 to 1, House Democrats would prefer to see President Carter rather than Sen. Edward M. Kennedy [D-Mass.] as their party's nominee in the 1980 campaign, according to a State News Service poll.
The president7s strength among Democratic members of Congress contrasts sharply with his consistently low ratings in surveys of the public as well as Kennedy's sustained popularity shown in recent polls of voting-age Americans.
Carter was the choice of 61 percent of the Democratic members who responded to the question, "If the presidential nominating conventions were being held now, which candidate or potential candidate would you like to see as the nominee of your party?"
Kennedy trailed with 19.5 percent, 14.2 percent were undecided, 5.3 percent were split among Vice President Mondale, Sen. Henry Jackson [D-Wash.] and Rep. Mooris Udall [D-Ariz.]. California Gov. Edward J. Brown Jr. failed to get one vote despite his often running third behind Kennedy voters at large.
Responses from Republican members revealed no clear-cut favorite for the Gop nomination. Former Texas Governor John Connally and former U.N. ambassador George Bush, another Texan, each were named by 23 percent of the Republicans who responded, while former California governor Ronald Reagan got 21 percent of the vote. Rep. John Anderson, [R-Ill.], was the choice of 8 percent and 12 percent were undecided.
Thirteen percent were spread among Sen. Howard H. Baker Jr. [R-Tenn.], Rep. Phil Crane [R-Ill.], Sen. Bob Dole [R-Kan.], Rep. Jack Kemp [R-N.Y.], former president Gerald R. Ford and Rep. David Satterfield [D-Va.].
The poll was conducted among all 435 House members from June 1-22. Responses numbered 197 for 45 percent. Forty-one precent of the Democrats and 53 percent of the Republicans answered the survey.
Carter's major support, predictably, came from Southern Democrats who gave the president 83 percent of the vote. 1only 3 percent chose Kennedy and 14 percent were undecided.
Kennedy, meanwhile, fared strongest in the West where he tied Carter with 43 percent of the vote. Seven percent each went to Jackson and Udall.
The poll indicates that House Democrats apparently are not ready to abandon their White House leader this early in the campaign despite conflict between Capitol Hill and Carter over energy issues as well as social programs that have been a trademark of past Democratic administrations.
Similarly, the poll shows no signs that the "darft-Kennedy" movement in the House organized in May by four liberal Democrats has attracted much sympathy from other party congressmen so far.
Kennedy has repeatedly stated that he expects Carter to be renominated and that he intends to support him. Numerous polls of rank-and-file voters, however, show Kennedy running far ahead of Carter in a presidential preference race. A Gallup poll released last week showed Democrats favoring Kennedy over Carter, 52 to 23 percent.
By region, House Democrats responding to the States News Service pool voted this way:
Northeast: Carter 48 percent, Kennedy 30 percent, Mondale 9 percent and 13 percent undecided.
MIDWEST: Carter 55 percent, Kennedy 21 percent, Mondale 7 percent and 17 percent undecided.
SOUTH: Carter 83 percent, Kennedy 3 percent and 14 percent undecided.
WEST: Carter 43 percent, Kennedy 43 percent, Jackson 7 percent and Udal 7 percent.
On the Republican side, the regional breakdown was:
NORTHEAST: Bush 28 percent, Anderson 22 percent, Reagan 11 percent Connally 11 percent, Ford, Dole and Kemp less than 6 percent each and 11 percent undecided.
MIDWEST: Connally 25 percent, Bush 25 percent, Reagan 11 percent, Crane 7 percent, Anderson 7 percent, Baker and Dole less than 4 percent each and 18 percent undecided.
SOUTH: Connally 33 percent, Reagan 20 percent, Baker 13 percent, Bush, Kemp, Crane and Satterfield each less than 7 percent and 7 percent undecided.
WEST: Reagain 60 percent, Bush 27 percent, Connally less than 7 percent and less than 7 percent undecided.
The members were asked two additional questions of a more speculative nature. They were, "Who do you think will be the nominee of your party?," and "Who do you think will be elected president next year?"
When asked to differentiate between who they thought would get the nomination rather than who their persona choice was, House Democrats gave Carter 76 percent of the votes and Kennedy 12 percent. Another 12 percent were undecided. The results indicate that some of the congress members who would like to see Kennedy win the nomination do not believe he will end up carrying the party standard.