NEW YORK — Two of every three Americans in two national polls said they approved of the way authorities handled the standoff at Vernon Howell’s compound near Waco.

An ABC poll of 530 adults April 21 found 58 percent approval of the first raid on the Branch Davidians in February, with 76 percent blaming cult members rather than federal agents for the ensuing shootout. And 70 percent approved of how the agencies handled the standoff.

Only 19 percent said they thought the deaths of the cult members April 19 could have been avoided.

And just 14 percent said President Clinton deserves some blame, ABC said.

NBC said its polling April 20 found two-thirds approval of the tear-gas assault on the Waco compound, and 60 percent agreed that Clinton is accepting his fair share of the responsibility.

That polling was part of a larger NBC-Wall Street Journal poll of 1,004 adults taken April 17-20.

The poll showed Clinton’s approval rating at 52 percent, down five points from March.

Read the Tribune-Herald's 7-part investigative series on the inner workings of the Branch Davidians. Hours after Part Two appeared in print, the ATF raided the group's compound.

Read the Tribune-Herald’s account of the ATF raid on the Branch Davidian compound on Feb. 28, 1993. Four ATF agents and six in the compound were killed in the gunfight.

Read the daily news accounts of the 51-day siege at the Branch Davidian compound near Elk, which began Feb. 28 and lasted until April.

Read the accounts of April 19 and beyond: FBI agents began inserting canisters of tear gas into the Branch Davidian compound in the early morning hours. By noon, it was on fire.