Drugs. Abortion. Immorality. These are some of the forces many Americans feel are tearing down the family and society. President Reagan has made them Republican issues.
Many voters worry about what they see happening to the country. In a 10-year period (1972-81) there were 9,896,680 abortions in the United States - 80 percent of them involving unmarried women, according to the US Center for Disease Control in Atlanta. The number of abortions rose every year. Meanwhile, six out of 10 teen-agers tell the Gallup Organization that they occasionally drink alcohol (up 18 percent in just two years). One teen out of every three says he or she has driven at some time with a drunk teen-age driver.
The Reagan campaign has drawn a clear line - especially on the abortion issue - with the Democrats. Mr. Reagan favors a human-life amendment to the Constitution that would protect unborn children. Further, he opposes use of any public money to pay for abortions and would cut off federal funds to any group that advocates abortion.
Reagan's stance has clearly helped Republicans in important Roman Catholic neighborhoods in the Northeast and Midwest, in the South among some Protestants, and with the growing Hispanic communities in the Southwest. Each of those groups was once overwhelmingly Democratic.
The President has reinforced this new-found support with several other stands. He supports as a ''strong priority'' a constitutional amendment to permit voluntary prayer in the public schools. He also wants federal tax credits for parents who send their children to parochial or private schools.
A Republican issue paper says the President's stand on tax credits supports the ''fundamental right'' of parents to ''choose schooling for their children which reflects their own moral values and educational preferences.''
Reagan's appeal to traditional values also extends to the flag, the country, the sense of American pride. The flag, red-white-and-blue balloons, and patriotic decorations are all a big part of Reagan rallies.
The President has supported a strong military budget and speaks often of being proud of America. Further, his timing has been fortuitous. Memories of Vietnam and Watergate are fading. The Reagan White House has benefited from a renewed spirit that seemed to get its initial spark with return of the US Embassy hostages from Iran. That spirit has grown as the economy improved. And it received an additional fillip with the US military mission into Grenada.
Men appear to have been particularly appreciative of Reagan's strong foreign policy and his patriotic appeals. A larger number of women, on the other hand, appeared worried that Reagan's flag-waving means he is bellicose and dangerous.
Reagan's greatest problem with his appeal to traditional values has been the charge that he is unfair - that he favors weapons over welfare, and that he has left many needy families in the cold. The White House responds to all this with a salvo of statistics. The list is nearly endless. Free lunches went to 400,000 more children in 1983 than in 1980 under President Carter. More help is going to pregnant mothers, children, the elderly than ever before, the White House says.