The ostensible purpose of the survey was to test the drawing power of various big-name Democrats as signers of fund-raising letters. Craver Mathews Smith, the direct-mail agency for the Democratic National Committee, checked the ratings of many of the party's past and present heros with some 578 givers to the DNC and a variety of liberal organizations, including environmental, pro-choice for abortion and gun-control groups.

Party officials, sensitive to suspicions of favoritism in the 1984 presidential race, have kept the results hush-hush. But now it's leaked that former vice president Mondale and Sen. Ted Kennedy had equal name-recognition scores but very different ratings. Mondale was high man of the dozen tested for, with an 8-to-1 ratio of extremely favorable to extremely unfavorable ratings and 87 percent scoring him above 5 on a 0-to-10 scale.

Kennedy was toward the bottom of the list with Jimmy Carter, Gov. Jerry Brown of California and Sen. Bob Byrd of West Virginia. His "very unfavorables" outnumbered his "very favorables," and only 66 percent gave him a score of 5 or above.

The results surprised some party officials, but there was one finding that might check Mondale's confidence: His closest rival in this poll was Frank Church of Idaho, who lost his Senate seat last fall.