Initial public reaction to air strikes on Iraq and Kuwait was strongly positive, with a big majority supporting the decision to begin the conflict and most predicting a short war with Iraq, according to a Washington Post-ABC News Poll.

Interviews with 545 randomly selected adults last night found 76 percent approving the decision to go to war with Iraq, with more than half of those questioned saying they strongly approved.

Another 22 percent said they disapproved, with most of those saying they strongly disapproved of the action.

Those interviewed also strongly approved of the timing of the attack. Three of four -- 75 percent -- said the United States was right to attack Iraq now. Another 13 percent said the United States and its allies should have waited longer, and 10 percent said Iraq should never have been attacked. The remaining 2 percent had no opinion.

Public opinion typically surges in support of a president at the start of war or other crisis. And experts warn that the pattern of public opinion in the Korea and Vietnam wars suggest that these initially high levels of support for Bush and the decision to go to war could fade if many Americans die in the fighting or the war lasts long.

According to the poll, support for Bush's handling of the war increased dramatically with the outbreak of hostilities.

Eight of 10 persons interviewed said they approved of the way Bush was handling the situation in the Persian Gulf region, and six of 10 said they strongly approved.

In a Post-ABC survey conducted Sunday, two of three persons surveyed supported Bush's handling of the gulf crisis.

The survey found that six of 10 Americans predicted that the war would produce low casualties, a dramatic switch from the previous survey that found a majority predicting high casualties in a war with Iraq. Eight of 10 said they expected a short war.

More than three of four -- 77 percent -- said the United States "had done enough" to seek a diplomatic solution with Iraq, up from 66 percent in last week's survey. Only one of five of those questioned last night said the United States had not done enough.

Unlike the ambivalence that has characterized most recent surveys on American attitudes toward going to war with Iraq, eight of 10 persons questioned in last night's Post-ABC poll said they were confident that the United States and its allies "did the right thing" in attacking Iraq.

Only one of seven said they were not confident about the decision to go to war, the poll found."NOTES: 3R1 ringwork END NOTES

The survey was conducted last night after Bush stated in a nationwide television broadcast his reasons for launching the air strikes. The margin of sampling error for the overall results is plus or minus 5 percentage points.

Q. Do you approve or disapprove of the United States having gone to war with Iraq? Approve ...............76% Disapprove .............22 Don't know ............. 2

Q. Do you think it was right for the United States to attack Iraq now, should the United States have waited longer before attacking Iraq, or should the United States never have attacked Iraq?

Yes, it was right for U.S. to attack ...........75%

U.S. should have waited longer ..................13

U.S. should never have attacked Iraq ............10

Don't know ...................................... 2

Q. Considering everything, how confident are you that the United States and its allies did the right thing in attacking Iraq tonight?

Very confident ..............59%

Somewhat confident ..........25

Not too confident ........... 8

Not at all confident ........ 6

Don't know .................. 2

Figures are based on interviews with a national sampling of 545 randomly selected adults conducted Wednesday after President Bush's speech to the nation announcing war with Iraq. Margin of sampling error on a sample of this size is plus or minus five percentage points. Interviews were conducted by Chilton Research of Radnor, Pa.