Former President Gerald Ford is the choice of Republican and independent voters to head the GOP ticket -- even though he has not yet declared himself a candidate for the Republican nomination.

Ford also leads president Carter among the general electorate.

A special ABC News-Harris Survey shows that a total of 33 percent of all Republicans and independents prefer Ford, compared with 27 percent for Ronald Reagan, 15 percent for John Anderson, and 14 percent for George Bush. Other GOP candidates trail far behind. Among just Republicans, Ford is also ahead -- with 36 percent, followed by Reagan at 32 percent, Bush at 12 percent, and Anderson at 10 percent.

When pitted against Carter among a cross-section of 1,498 likely voters, Ford runs ahead by 54 to 44 percent. Among the same voters, Reagan trails Carter 58 to 40 percent.

These results bear out what Ford has claimed: that the polls would show him to be more popular with the voters than Reagan. The lastest ABC News-Harris Survey, conducted by telephone nationwide among 1,498 voters, was conducted from March 5th through 8th.

Among Republican and independent voters, Ford is ahead of Reagan in the East and the Midwest by substantial margins. However, Reagan edges the former president by one point in the South and is well ahead in the West.

When analyzed by political philosophy, Ford leads Reagan among Republican and independent moderates, but runs 6 points behind Reagan among conservatives. By age, Ford is ahead among those under 50 but Reagan comes up ahead among older voters.