Child abuse claimed an average of three lives a day in the United States last year, according to statistics supplied by the National Committee for Prevention of Child Abuse.

There were about 2.25 million reports of child abuse and neglect nationwide last year, the committee said, projecting that 1,132 of the children died of their injuries, slightly fewer than the 1,181 reported in 1986."The public outcry at the tragic death of Lisa Steinberg should have been repeated a thousand times over last year," Anne Cohn, executive director of the group, said Tuesday.

Cohn was referring to the widely publicized beating death last year of 6-year-old Elizabeth Steinberg in New York, which last year led the nation with 166 reported abuse deaths. That was double the total for California, which was second.

The group also surveyed 1,250 people nationwide and found widespread support for more intensive investigation of all child abuse reports even as some states are screening their reports more carefully.

The survey showed 67 percent of the people questioned believe "public child welfare agencies should investigate all reports of child abuse regardless of the seriousness of the charge."

The group said differences in screening and reporting methods may have been responsible for wide swings among states from the previous year in reported child abuse cases.

Illinois reported 30 percent more cases last year and Kansas 25 percent more to register the biggest increases, NCPCA said in a survey of states.

New Mexico, Hawaii and Louisiana showed declines of more than 20 percent.