The honeymoon between the American people and Ronald Reagan has now begun in earnest. By 77 to 17 percent, a majority of Americans gives the new president positive marks on "inspiring confidence in the White House."

This contrasts sharply with the 64-to-34 percent negative rating on the confidence issue that Jimmy Carter was given as he left office.

The rating pattern for recent occupants of the White House shows just how ephemeral such high initial ratings can be, however. Carter was rated 75 percent positive on inspiring confidence shortly after taking office, but he finished at 34 percent positive.

Gerald R. Ford also started with a 75 percent positive rating upon assuming the presidency, but finished at 46 percent positive. Richard M. Nixon started at a much lower 48 percent positive on the confidence issue, but dropped to an all-time low of 13 percent positive by the time he resigned from office.

Reagan's ratings on other dimensions approach record or near-record levels, according to the latest Harris Survey of 1,250 adults nationwide:

By 91 to 8 percent, an overwhelming majority gives Reagan high marks for sending Carter as his representative to meet the released hostages in West Germany.

An 87-to-10 majority rates Reagan favorably for deciding to give priority to improving the economy.

By 71 to 23 percent, a sizable majority gives the new president high marks for "the way he has taken over as president."

By 59 to 30 percent, a majority gives him a positive rating on his Cabinet appointments.

Many of the basic points Reagan made in his inaugural address won wide approval among Americans:

By 81 to 16 percent, a majority agrees with the new chief executive that "government is not the solution to our national problems, but is the problem itself."

By 83 to 12 percent, Americans agree that "the size and influence of the federal government should be curbed."

By a nearly unanimous 96 to 2 percent, Americans agree that "government must be made to work, not abolished."

Clearly, in these first days of his administration, Reagan is being greeted by a public that wants him to succeed and is prepared to give him all of the benefit of the doubt. It is when he gets down to the specific spending cuts and a specific tax program that the real controversy will begin.