Greed appears on the way out and altruism on the way in as people favor a return to a simpler society into the 1990s with less focus on materialism, according to a survey released this week.

The survey, paid for by a maker of alcoholic beverages and based on telephone interviews in October with 1,001 workers between the ages of 25 and 49, focused on new priorities for the work force and explored attitudes of the largely "baby boomer" group toward personal fulfillment.The bottom line: American workers appear to be placing less importance on financial success and more on family and community in the quest for personal happiness.

"Comprising the bulk of the work force in the coming decade and into the next century, these working people indicate a shift away from the materialism that typified much of the `80s," the report said.

The report, titled "The Chivas Regal Report on Working Americans: Emerging Values for the 1990s," was commissioned by the liquor company and conducted by Research and Forecasts Inc., a New York public opinion firm. The survey has a margin of error of 3 percent, plus or minus.

According to the report, 75 percent of those surveyed said they "would like to see a return to a simpler society, with less emphasis on material success.

"Ten years ago, in 1978, significantly fewer Americans (56 percent) expressed such a wish," the report said. "In 1982, 52 percent desired such a change. The jump to 75 percent suggests that the latter years of the 1980s has brought about a growing sentiment away from materialism."

The report also said two-thirds of working Americans, 68 percent, believe there is a growing trend back toward family values.

"Family life, 46 percent, is four times more likely to be cited as a source of more fulfillment than is work life, 10 percent," the report continued.

"Success in life is most often defined as having a happy family life, 62 percent; 15 percent say it is the ability to do good in the world; 10 percent say it is earning lots of money.

"Sixty-one percent of working Americans say that family life is more important to them today than it was five years ago.

"Forty-seven percent of American workers say that compared with five years ago, they are having more `good times,"' the report said.

"According to American workers, strong family unity is built by spending time together, 92 percent; assisting family members with problems, 86 percent; and providing financial security for the family, 83 percent.

"Of less importance is buying things, 22 percent, and keeping up with the Joneses, 2 percent."

Other highlights of the survey:

- AIDS and drug abuse are the two issues that personally distress a majority of Americans. Other worries that are distressing to a large number of those surveyed include: environmental pollution (40 percent), quality of education (39 percent), the homeless (33 percent), threat of nuclear war (19 percent) access to quality health care (19 percent), and lack of affordable housing (19 percent).

- Seventy-three percent believe the 1990s will be a time of greater economic caution, with less emphasis on spending. Sixty-two percent believe the 1990s will be a time of greater concern for others in the community.