The White House yesterday sought to play down the prospects for an early summit meeting between President Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev, following Reagan's invitation this week to the new Soviet leader.

Presidential spokesman Larry Speakes said that Gorbachev had not accepted the invitation "in principle" as he did with French President Francois Mitterand and West German Chancellor Helmut Kohl. But Speakes also noted that "the 'in principle' business is diplomatic language."

He said that while there had been a public response from Moscow to invitations for Gorbachev to visit France and West Germany, "obviously there has been no public statement about the United States."

"We think it may be quite a period of time before the Soviets are ready to have any movement toward a meeting" with Reagan, Speakes said, adding that Gorbachev "has domestic concerns that he would want to deal with."

Reagan said yesterday that Gorbachev's ascension is a reflection that the Soviets are "in a different frame of mind than they've been in the past" about nuclear weapons negotiations.

In a session with magazine publishers, Reagan was asked whether he has reason to believe that Gorbachev is "fundamentally different from his immediate predecessors."

"Well, I don't think there's any evidence that he is less dominated by their system and their philosophy . . . , " Reagan said.

"I think he has spoken out . . . about improvements in the economy there; particularly he is noted for advocating . . . , more private venture in the agricultural section than the present system of government farms. And I look forward to dealing with him," Reagan said.

"I think what is most evident . . . is that the Soviet Union is in a different frame of mind than they've been in the past," Reagan added. "They are back at the negotiating table on arms reductions because they recognize a hard, cold fact, and that is that the United States isn't going to unilaterally disarm in the face of their military buildup."