President Carter fared worse in Congress last year than other recent presidents dealing with Congresses controlled by their party, a survey shows.
It also shows that Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.), who is trying to oust Carter from the White House as inadquate, did not build a record of voting opposition to the president during the year. Kennedy had the lowest score of voting against Carter -- 7 per cent -- of any member of the Senate. But this was due in part to his high rate of absenteeism which held down his records of both support and opposition.
The survey of voting support, opposition and attendance was compiled by Congressional Quarterly, which has been keeping such records since 1953.
On votes where Carter had taken a clear position last year, CQ found that House and Senate gave him overall support of 76.8 percent, with the Senate considerably friendlier at 81.4 percent to the House's 71.1. This was down slightly from 1978 but up by about the same amount above his first year.
President Eisenhower had a Republican Congress his first two years, and Presidents Kennedy and Johnson had Democratic Congresses in their combined total of eight years. The only year their congressional support fell as low as Carter's highest was 1968, when Johnson, a lame duck symbol of an increasingly unpopular war in Indochina, saw his support in Congress fall to 75 percent.
Johnson's support had reached a high of 93 percent after the Republican election diaster of 1964. Eisenhower was a war hero. The other two were congressional veterans. Carter came here as an outsider fighting Washington and with poor congressional relations.
Last year Kennedy missed one of every four votes for one of the poorest attendance records. Partly because of this, the record shows he voted against Carter on only 7 percent of the 161 roll calls checked. But he also voted for the president's position on only 73 percent of the 161 votes.
Twenty-four Senate Democrats had a better support record than Kennedy. Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.), who had a 98 percent attendance record, had the highest support record of any senator, with 91 percent, and an opposition record of 8 percent. Highest Republican support record was Sen. Jacob Javits (R-N.Y.), with 82 percent.
Carter's top supporters in the House were Democrats Henry Reuss (Wis.) and Bill Burlison (Mo.) and Republican Mark Marks (Pa.).
Senate Majority Leader Robert C. Byrd (D-W.Va.) had a 77 percent support record, almost exactly the overall congressional figure. House Majority Leader Jim Wright had a 69 percent support record. Speaker Thomas P. (Tip) O'Neill Jr. votes only to break a tie.
Maryland's two senators were among Carter's top supporters, with Democrats Paul Sarbanes at 85 percent and Republican Charles McC. Mathias at 73 percent. Virginia's Harry F. Byrd (Ind.) supported Carter only 36 percent of the time while Republican John Warner had a 41 percent support record.
Of Virginia's 10 House members, only the two Democrats from Northern Virginia had a support record better than 40 percent Joseph Fisher was 82 percent and Herbert Harris 78 percent.