The black community is less liberal on social issues and more sanguine about race relations than are its leaders, according to a national survey made public yesterday.
Conducted by Linda Lichter, co-director of the Center for Media and Public Affairs, the survey found a "surprising divergence" between average black Americans and leaders of black political and civil rights groups on a broad range of questions. These include:
*Should minorities receive preferential treatment to make up for past discrimination? Seventy-seven percent of black leaders said yes, while the same percentage of the black public said no.
*Are blacks making progress or going backwards? Sixty-one percent of leaders said backwards; 66 percent of the public said otherwise.
*Do you approve of busing of black and white children for school desegregation? Sixty-eight percent of black leaders approved; 53 percent of the public disapproved.
*Have you, personally, ever experienced job discrimination? Seventy-four percent of leaders said they had; 60 percent of the public said they had not.
The interviews were conducted by telephone in May through July among a nationwide random sample of 600 blacks. The same questions were asked of 105 leaders of the NAACP, National Urban League, Southern Christian Leadership Conference, Operation PUSH, National Conference of Black Mayors and Congressional Black Caucus.
The organizations were chosen because they had received the most coverage in the national news media in 1984 as spokesmen for the black community on matters of race and civil rights.
In an interview, Lichter said she believed that leaders of virtually any racial, ethnic or interest group would, if surveyed, be found to hold more extreme views than their followers. But she said she nevertheless was "stunned" by the wide disparity on many of the answers.
However, NAACP Executive Director Benjamin L. Hooks said that he "distrusted" the survey and that "in these kinds of public opinion polls, the average man on the street, white or black, wants to appear to be fair. He responds to what the question says. Black leaders are more likely to respond to what the question means."
Hooks added that he believed that the six groups surveyed were "very much in tune" with the views and aspirations of black America.
Lichter said, "We are not saying that black leaders shouldn't have a voice or be respected. We just want to remind the nation's media that the black community is not a monolith."
She added that the conservatism of the black public on many social issues may make that community more "up for grabs politically" than either major political party realizes.
Some social issues surveyed and the results include:
Prayer, which 40 percent of black leaders and 83 percent of the black public supported in public schools.
Abortion, which 14 percent of leaders and 43 percent of the public favored banning.
Death penalty for murder, which was favored by 33 percent of leaders and 55 percent of the public.
The survey, taken before Pretoria imposed the current state of emergency, found that 59 percent of black leaders and 29 percent of the public approved of divestment by U.S. corporations in South Africa.
The survey is to appear in the forthcoming issue of Public Opinion, published by the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative think tank. Lichter's Center for Media and Public Affairs is a nonpartisan, privately funded research group.