Most U.S. citizens of Mexican, Puerto Rican and Cuban descent prefer to speak English rather than Spanish, oppose increased immigration and profess strong U.S. patriotism, according to results of the most comprehensive survey ever of Latino attitudes.

Even non-citizens in the survey said they believe there are too many immigrants in the United States. Authors of the Latino National Political Survey presented their findings yesterday as a counterpoint to widely held misperceptions of one of the nation's fastest growing so-called minority groups. The survey polled 2,817 Americans of Mexican, Puerto Rican and Cuban descent in 40 cities, as well as a small sampling of non-Hispanic whites.

More than 90 percent of those polled said they believed U.S. citizens and residents should learn English, and about 85 percent said they felt learning English was the objective of bilingual education.

More than 65 percent of the respondents agreed with the statement "there are too many immigrants" in this country. And when asked about the strength of their pride and love for the United States, vast majorities said their feelings were extreme or very strong.

"We have a population here that in fact is very American and very pro-American," said Angelo Falcon, president of the Institute for Puerto Rican Policy in New York and one of four survey authors.

Rodolfo O. de la Garza, professor of government at the University of Texas at Austin and another survey author, said the results reflect the extent to which Latinos embrace American culture. And it is surprising, he said. "They have been socialized . . . to view the world the way America views the world."

But within the data are reflections of the diversity of opinion among Latinos, who the survey's authors said cannot be viewed as a monolithic group.

Those surveyed professed strong loyalty to people of their national origin and said they had little contact or cultural affiliation with members of other Latino groups.

And while the groups have some common political concerns, such as bilingual education and the belief in a strong governmental role in ensuring social welfare, their views on some issues, such as affirmative action and abortion, are diverse.

Pluralities of Latinos in the study said they believe women are better off if they have a career or job, and the numbers who took this position were higher than the number of Anglos who did.

In the survey, sponsored by the Ford, Rockefeller, Spencer and Tinker foundations and conducted from August 1989 through April 1990, 1,546 Mexicans, 589 Puerto Ricans and 682 Cubans were questioned, along with 456 non-Hispanic whites. The respondents were a mix of native born and foreign born, citizens and non-citizens. Interviews were conducted in Spanish or English, depending on the preference of the respondent. Margin of sampling error was plus or minus 3 percent.

The three Latino groups were chosen because together they account for nearly 80 percent of U.S. Latino residents. Some of the fastest growing -- albeit small -- Latino groups, such as Salvadorans, were not included in the survey.

The survey also showed little agreement on the use of such pan-ethnic terms as "Latino" or "Hispanic," a name used for bureaucratic convenience by U.S. officials. Majorities of respondents in each group wanted to be called names that reflected their national origin, such as Mexican American or Mexican origin.