An overwhelming majority of Americans believe Iraq was to blame for the deaths of Iraqi civilians in a U.S. air raid on Baghdad Wednesday and a large majority continue to support the month-old war with Iraq, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News Poll.

The survey found that eight of 10 persons questioned said Iraqi President Saddam Hussein or the Iraqi government were most to blame for Wednesday's incident. A similarly large majority of those questioned Thursday night said they believe the bombed facility was a military target as asserted by President Bush and allied military leaders.

Six of 10 said the United States should continue bombing military targets "even if Iraqi civilians might be killed." And two of three said the United States is "making enough of an effort" to avoid bombing civilian targets, unchanged from a Post-ABC survey completed before the air raid.

Interviews with 772 randomly selected adults were conducted before Iraq made a conditional offer to withdraw yesterday. But the poll results suggest support for the war, unshaken by the deaths of Iraqi civilians in Wednesday's air raid, should be unaffected by Bush's rejection of the Iraqi proposal.

According to the Post-ABC survey, 78 percent said they back the decision to go to war with Iraq, a level of support that has not changed in more than two weeks. And 59 percent of those interviewed Thursday said they "strongly" support the war, also largely unchanged since the start of the war.

"The overwhelming sentiment is {to} rally around our troops and that drowns out everything," said Celinda Lake, a Democratic pollster and vice president of Greenberg-Lake/The Analysis Group.

"In my experience this is the closest to the World War II psychology that I've seen," said pollster Burns Roper, president of the Roper Organization. "We didn't have yellow ribbons but we did have flags all over. That didn't happen in Vietnam, and it didn't happen in Korea. Now it's happened again."

"Public opinion is in a different place now than it was one month ago," said John Marttila, a Democratic pollster. "The center has moved. Americans have more reasons why they are against this guy {Saddam} that will hold it up."

Those reasons include Saddam's image as a reckless and ruthless dictator. "I can't think of a more perfect enemy for Bush to have than Saddam Hussein, since he can't have Hitler," Roper said.

"We have a very convenient enemy, a guy who has convinced the world that he is a menace to civilization, and a guy who has convinced the world that there was no other way to deal with him," said William Schneider, a political analyst at American Enterprise Institute.

"I don't think public opinion has been tested yet," said Bruce Jentleson, director of the University of California at Davis Washington Center who has studied public opinion and war. "But there are periods when we are willing to pay a very heavy price because we believe it was necessary. There is a point out there where enough will be enough. Because our purposes are clear, that point is further out than it was in Vietnam or Korea."

Recent Post-ABC surveys suggest that a majority of Americans support the war even though a majority believe a ground war with high casualties is inevitable.

According to the most recent survey, three of four said an air war alone will not force Iraq to withdraw from Kuwait, and eight of 10 favor a ground war at some point if air power alone does not work.

The Bush administration and coalition military leaders have been careful to note that the war is directed at Saddam and his military establishment, and not at the Iraqi people.

According to latest Post-ABC poll, Americans believe by a 49 percent to 42 percent plurality, that the Iraqi people do not support the war.

Americans remain divided, too, over whether U.S. journalists should report war news from Iraq, where their actions are closely monitored by government officials and their movements sharply restricted.

According to the poll, 43 percent said it was a "good thing" that U.S. reporters were in Iraq to report the news, while 40 percent disagreed.

Senior polling analyst Sharon Warden contributed to this report.

Q. Do you approve or disapprove of the United States having gone to war with Iraq?

2/14/91

Approve 78%

Disapprove 18

2/12/91 2/10/91 2/10/91 1/27/91 1/18/91 1/16/91

Approve 78% 75% 78% 75% 83% 76%

Disapprove 18 20 18 23 14 22

Q. Do you think United States bombers should pass up some possible military targets if Iraqi civilians might be killed in the attack, or not?

2/14/91 1/20/91

Yes, pass up targets 34% 37%

No, don't pass up targets 60 56

Don't know 6 7

Q. Do you think the site was a legitimate military target or not?

2/14/91

Yes, military target 81%

No, not military target 9

Don't know 10

Q. Which of these statements comes closer to your own view:

A. The United States should be making a greater effort to avoid bombing civilian areas in Iraq; or

B. The United States is making enough of an effort to avoid bombing civilian areas in Iraq; or

C. The United States is making too much of an effort to avoid bombing civilian areas in Iraq.

2/14/91 2/12/91

A. Greater effort 13% 13%

B. Doing enough 67 60

C. Doing too much 18 22

Don't know 2 5

Note: Figures do not add to 100% in the first question because don't know is not shown. The Feb. 14, figures are based on a nationwide Washington Post-ABC News telephone poll of 772 randomly selected adults 18 years of age and older conducted Feb. 14. The Jan. 18, 1991 poll was an ABC News poll. All other polls were Washington Post-ABC News polls. Samples for these polls range from 532 to 1,015. Margin of sampling error is plus or minus four percentage points for the Feb. 14 poll and ranges from plus or minus three to plus or minus three percentage points for the other polls. Sampling error is, however, only one of many potential sources of error in these or any other public opinion polls. Interviewing was conducted by International Communications Research of Media, Pa. and Chilton Research of Radnor, Pa.