WASHINGTON (AP) _ The nation's leading military officers are overwhelmingly Republican conservatives and believe civilian society could benefit by adopting military values, according to a new academic study.

A survey of nearly 3,000 ``elite'' officers who had been recently promoted or were ready for promotion found eight Republicans for every Democrat.

In a series of studies that document and proposes ways of breaching a gap between the military and civilians, scholars warn that the divide is widening and threatens military effectiveness and civil-military cooperation.

The Triangle Institute for Security Studies' Project on the Gap Between the Military and Civilian Society released Monday includes the results of mailed surveys of military and civilian leaders and a national telephone poll of the public.

The surveys and studies find a big gap on several issues between military leaders and civilians, although they also documents strong respect for the military and broad acceptance of civilian control.

``The long tradition of an apolitical military has given way to a new reality in which the elite military is probably the most solidly Republican professional group in American society,'' the study said. It said sharply differing views on ideological issues further document the divide.

It found 64 percent of the officers proclaiming themselves Republican while 8 percent said they were Democrats, with 1 percent declaring other parties and 27 percent claiming independence or no preference.

This compares with 35 percent Democrats, 29 percent Republicans and 36 percent independents or other in the companion public survey.

Only 6 percent of military officers called themselves liberal, with less than 1 percent saying they were ``very liberal''; 65 percent said they were conservative; and about a fifth of those labeled themselves ``very conservative'' or ``far right.''

On nearly all issues, the Triangle study showed results similar to an Associated Press poll published Monday documenting American confidence in the military.

The Triangle project also found strong military claims of respect for civilian society and a belief that military-civilian relations are good.

A summary of the studies led by Peter D. Feaver from Duke University and Richard H. Kohn from University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, said, however, that ``mutual professions of support and confidence between civilians and the military rest on an underlying alienation that may in time erode the surface support each claims for the other.''

Military officers tended far more than civilians to characterize civilian society as materialistic, self-indulgent, troubled and in need of reform, the survey said.

It found 77 percent of the officers believed that wider acceptance of ``military values and customs'' would help civilian society. Only 23 percent of civilian nonveterans agreed. Positive military values were defined as hard work, discipline, honesty and loyalty.

Points of strongest disagreement were on the issues of women in combat and homosexuals serving openly in the military, on whether enough has been done to stop sexual harassment and on the necessity for a traditional male ``warrior culture'' for military effectiveness.

The study noted concern by Defense Secretary William Cohen and others about a civilian-military gap and said they are justified but have not reached crisis levels. It also cited the declining number of veterans serving in Congress _ the lowest since the early 1900s _ but said this has had little impact on the way Congress votes.

And it found more confidence among military officers than among civilians that civilian control of the military will be maintained _ more than three-fourths agreement from the military elite compared with about half in the civilian survey.

The study was based on written surveys returned in 1998 and early 1999 by 2,901 elite military officers taking military courses at 14 institutions around the country. They also included officers up to the rank of one-star general. Feaver described those surveyed as a strong representation of future and present military leaders.

He said, however, the survey did not attempt to take a scientific sampling of the entire military. Civilians responding to the survey included 989 people listed in Who's Who in America, as well as leaders in diplomacy, media and labor. A separate telephone poll interviewed 1,001 Americans.