Nearly 2 1/2 years after President Carter characterized the energy crisis as the "moral equivalent of war," the public appears to be getting the administration's message on the seriousness of the energy situation.

Today, nearly half the American people (47 percent) consider the energy situation in the United States to be "very serious." This represents a 10-point jump since early June when 37 percent held this view.

The growth in concern between June and today has been most pronounced among persons with a college background. In the earlier survey, 45 percent of college-educated persons said the energy situation was "very serious," while today a solid majority (60 percent) does so.

Further evidence that the energy crisis has finally struck home to many is seen in the steps being taken by Americans to reduce their use of energy:

About half of Americans (51 percent) now say they are reducing the amount they drive; the comparable figure was 33 percent in February. Others are turning off electric lights (19 percent), making minimum use of air conditioners (19 percent), while still others have purchased gas-saving cars or motorcycles and are riding bicycles or walking. Only one American in nine (11 percent) says he or she is doing nothing to reduce the use of electricity.

Here is the first question asked:

How serious would you say the energy situation is in the United States -- very serious, fairly serious, or not at all serious?

As the trend shows, little change in opinion was recorded between April 1977 and June of the current year: [Table omitted]

This question was asked next:

Do you happen to be doing anything to reduce your use of energy -- that is, your use of gasoline, electricity, or natural gas? [Table omitted]

Less than 1 percent.

(Total adds to more than 100 percent because of multiple responses).

The results reported today are based on in-person interviews with 1,562 adults, 18 and older, interviewed in more than 300 scientifically selected localities across the nation Aug. 3-6.