WASHINGTON (AP) _ With little more than 1,370 days until the next presidential election, the Democrats have a front-runner to challenge President Bush. According to the first 1992 campaign poll, the leader is Sen. Edward M. Kennedy.

The mid-January ABC News survey, which an ABC polling analyst termed ''just a fun read on what people think,'' underscored the Massachusetts senator's standing as the most familiar name among Democrats.

''As my family keeps reminding me, I've been elected president 73 times in the past 20 years in polls like this,'' quippremature understates the case by a lot,'' said Kohut.

Kelly Hanley, a polling analyst at ABC News, said the survey was ''just a fun read on what people think and we found Ted Kennedy at the top, which we've found in the past never turns out to be true.''

Kennedy is familiar with the role of early front-runner.

In July 1985, Kennedy held a 15-point lead over Gary Hart in a Gallup poll measuring Democrats' preferences for the 1988 presidential nomination. Kennedy remained the front-runner through Dec. 19, 1985, the day he announced he would not run for president.

In the new survey, Kennedy was the choice of 26 percent of people shown a list of seven prominent Democrats and asked ''which of the following persons do you think would be the best candidate for the Democrats to run in 1992.''

Ms. Hanley said the survey was done because ''we were interested in seeing what type of support Michael Dukakis had at the moment.''

The 1988 Democratic presidential nominee has announced he will not seek another term as governor of Massachusetts, but has refused to rule out a 1992 presidential run.

The ABC poll had him tied for third place with Jesse Jackson. In second place was Gov. Mario Cuomo of New York.

The top four finishers in the survey were bona fide Democratic liberals, a political species supposedly headed for the endangered list after landslide defeats in the last three presidential elections.

Trailing the four leaders were Sens. Albert Gore Jr. of Tennessee and Bill Bradley of New Jersey and Rep. Richard Gephardt of Missouri.

ABC polled 781 people who described themselves as Democrats or independents who lean toward favoring Democrats. They were contacted between Jan. 12 and 16 and the results had a 4-point margin of error, meaning they could be off as much as four percentage points up or down.

Kennedy was the first choice of 26 percent and Cuomo of 19 percent. Dukakis and Jackson were named by 15 percent each, while Gore had 6 percent, Bradley 5 and Gephardt 4.

One prominent Democrat not included on the ABC list was Texas Sen. Lloyd Bentsen who received highly favorable reviews as the party's vice presidential candidate in 1988.