Most Americans want to call Congress back into session to debate U.S. policy in the Persian Gulf, and a growing majority believes President Bush should seek congressional approval before taking any military action against Iraq, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll.

Support for an increased congressional role in deciding how to resolve the showdown with Iraq comes amid signs of growing impatience with the current stalemate and weakened support for the way Bush has handled the crisis.

At the same time, broad support continues for the overall U.S. objective of driving Iraqi military forces out of Kuwait, according to the survey of 515 randomly selected adults Wednesday and Thursday nights and interviews conducted by Post reporters with people around the country.

In the past week, several prominent lawmakers, including Sen. Richard G. Lugar (R-Ind.), have called for a special session of Congress to debate gulf policy and clarify the U.S. role in the region. But both Bush and the Democratic congressional leaders reacted coolly to the idea, with the Democrats proposing instead to hold hearings after Thanksgiving on the administration's policy.

The Post-ABC poll found that the number of Americans who feel the United States should "take all action necessary, including the use of military force" fell from 70 percent a month ago to 65 percent this week. In late August the number was 76 percent.

Support for Bush's performance in the crisis continues to slip. Fifty-nine percent of those questioned said they approve, down from 65 percent in an ABC survey conducted before Bush announced last week he would send more troops to Saudi Arabia. In September, 78 percent backed Bush's handling of the crisis.

"I think that sending more troops over there and not doing anything with them is making us look stupid," said Laura Zeitlin of Highland Park, Ill., one of more than a dozen people interviewed by Post correspondents in the Los Angeles, Chicago and New York areas. "Bush and Congress have been waffling and it's gone on too long.

"People haven't forgotten the lessons of Vietnam," Zeitlin said. "Although America is still patriotic about standing up for a just cause, we become frustrated when there is not action."

Fears that Bush is rushing too quickly into a war with Iraq do not seem to be the underlying concern of most of those skeptical of the president's actions, the survey suggests.

Just over a third of those questioned disapproved of Bush's policies in the gulf. But when these critics were asked whether they thought Bush was moving too fast or too slowly against Iraq, 44 percent said he was moving too slowly. Slightly fewer -- 37 percent -- said he was moving too quickly.

"It's just time to do something," said Shelly Weisman, 24, a bookstore manager in in Hollywood, Calif. "People are fed up about hearing about it, they're tired of high gasoline prices and they're fed up with {Iraqi leader Saddam} Hussein. Let's go to war. Let's blow them off the face of the earth."

"We're not doing anything and I would like to see something resolved," said Bill Daitchman, a 32-year-old printer from Chicago. "People are tired of all the rhetoric and dares and double-dares."

Even some of those who say Bush should continue to search for a diplomatic solution are growing anxious. "Sure the president is doing the right thing," said Jack Jiwani, 28, of Queens, N.Y. "I don't think the U.N. is putting enough pressure on Saddam Hussein . . . That man is crazy. We think of him as a crackpot, but he is dreaming to become a Hitler."

The survey found a clear majority of those questioned -- 61 percent -- said they supported Bush's decision last week to send additional troops to the gulf, a move that ignited a firestorm of criticism and concern on both sides of the aisle in Congress. That figure is significantly smaller than the 74 percent who approved of Bush's initial decision to send troops immediately after Iraq invaded Kuwait on Aug. 2.

Slightly more than half of those interviewed -- 52 percent -- said Bush's decision to send more troops made war more likely, while 37 percent said it makes war less likely.

"I don't like the idea of having so many innocent people over there," said Orville Bushelle, 42, of Brooklyn, N.Y. "Too many lives are at stake . . . and I don't think it is a righteous cause."

The survey also found that most Americans, and particularly women, remain unwilling to abandon diplomatic solutions and other non-military solutions to the crisis. Nor are most Americans willing to give Bush a free hand in deciding if or when to take miltary action against Iraq.

Only one out of four persons questioned in the survey said Congress should declare war now "so Bush can order an attack whenever he feels it is necessary."

"I don't think they {the troops} should go home just yet but I don't think we should go to war either," said Teresa Koska, 24 a senior at California State University at Northridge. "It's like the bumper sticker says, 'War doesn't decide who's right but who's left.' "

But more Americans than ever believe that war is inevitable. More than seven out of 10 persons interviewed -- 71 percent -- now say they expect the United States to get involved in a war with Iraq, up from 60 percent in a Post-ABC survey conducted immediately after Bush announced he was sending troops in August.

If war with Iraq does come, most Americans would prefer that the decision to go to war be made with the approval of Congress. According to the poll, 76 percent of those questioned said Bush should ask permission from Congress before launching an attack against Iraq, up from 69 percent earlier this month. Seven out of 10 also said they want Congress to be called back into session to debate U.S. policy in the gulf.

While most Americans say they know why Bush sent troops, the Post-ABC poll showed that the percentage who say they are confused is growing. Now 69 percent of those questioned said they had a "clear idea" of why Bush ordered troops to Saudi Arabia, down from 77 percent in a September survey by The Post.

The results of the Post-ABC poll are similar to other recent surveys on the gulf crisis. A Los Angeles Times poll released Thursday found 54 percent of those questioned said they supported Bush's actions in the gulf, while a survey conducted by International Communications Research from Nov. 9-12 reported that 60 percent of those surveyed backed Bush's policies. A USA Today poll conducted Monday reported that 51 percent of those questioned supported Bush's performance in the crisis.

Polling analyst Sharon Warden and special correspondents Laurie Goodstein in New York, Lauren Ina in Chicago and Jill Walker in Los Angeles contributed to this report.