If the 1982 election for the U.S. House were held now, the Democrats would retain control by 50 to 44 percent, marginally better than the 48-to-43 percent edge they held just before the 1980 election.
The latest Harris Survey, conducted by telephone among 927 voters nationwide between June 3 and June 7, indicates that Republican hopes of taking control of the House, along with the Senate, which they won in 1980, could be premature.
In the past, the party in control of the White House has lost seats in Congress in the off-year elections, and that may well happen again. These results are in sharp contrast to recent observations by political reporters that the Democrats, under siege from Reagan initatives, are in such sorry shape that they seem almost certain to lose control of the House next year.
Translated into likely margins, this latest Harris Survey result would mean that the Democrats, as of now, might expect to return from next year's elections with a margin of 50 or 60 seats in the House. They now enjoy a 52-vote majority there.
A breakdown by key groups in the electrate reveals where the Democratic support can be found, and also points out the changing division among voters as the Reagan administration begins to take shape:
By region, the Democrats are ahead by 48 to 44 percent in the East, behind by 48 to 47 percent in the Midwest, ahead by 48 to 47 in the South, and hold a substantial 55-to-36-percent lead in the West.
The West was a Reagan stronghold in 1980, but dissatisfaction with the environmental and land policies of the new GOP administration appears to be sharply on the rise in the West and could cost the Republicans dearly in the 1982 elections.
Men say they would vote Republican for Congress by 49 to 45 percent, but women would vote Democratic by a decisive 52 to 41 percent. Concerns over the hawkish Reagan foreign policy, along with the problems being encountered by women in their quest for jobs and equal pay, appear to be influencing women to want to vote Democratic.
Two traditionally Democratic groups, blacks and labor union members, appear to be coming back to their party in substational numbers. Blacks give the Democrats an edge by 83 to 9 percent, and trade union people favor Democratic candidates for the House by 60 to 36 percent.
In 1980, Reagan made a determined bid for the union and blue-collar vote, and made serious inroads into this traditionally Democratic province.
By political philosophy, the Republicians win the vote of conservatives by 58 to 36 percent. The Democrats take the vote of liberals by 70 to 27 percent. However, middle-of-the-road voters, who are the balance of power in the electorate, prefer the Democrats by 53 to 40 percent.
This division by ideology is significant because it is an early reading that the Reagan bent toward bringing the country more to the conservative side may well now be isolating Republicans from political moderates and liberals.
The Democrats hold a wide 59-to-36-percent lead among people under 30, and a slim 47-to-43-percent edge among those 65 and over. The Republicans hold a marginal lead of 50 to 45 percent among the 30-to-49 age group and a thin 47-to-46-percent edge among the 50-to-64 group.
Normally, the 65-and-over group would be expected to go Republican in an off-year election, but the Republicans have been hurt by the recent Social Security proposals of the Reagan administration.