Many women are holding themselves back from politics because they feel unqualified to run, worry about raising enough money, or don't know how to campaign, a group promoting women for office said Thursday.

The National Women's Political Caucus based those conclusions on a poll indicating 8 percent of women and 18 percent of men have considered running.The group says it will put on more than 50 regional training sessions for the 1996 elections to help women at all levels identify opportunities and run competitive races.

"We are telling American women, take the first step, become politically involved, and we will help you the rest of the way," said caucus president Harriett Woods.

The survey, conducted for the caucus in July with 1,000 people, has a margin of error of 3.1 percent.

Woods said women seem to have bought the myth they have a harder time winning than men. Fully 71 percent of women and 63 percent of men in the poll thought that was true. Earlier caucus research indicated women who run generally win as often as men or nearly as often.

Still, fear of losing was cited by only 12 percent of the women in the poll who said they had not considered running.

Instead, they expressed concerns about their qualifications (55 percent), their ability to raise money (54 percent) and their lack of knowledge about how to run a campaign (37 percent).

Woods said those findings underscore the need for training. "We're glad it turned out to be something we can do something about," she said, as opposed, for example, to a wide disenchantment with politics.

Woods said the number of women running for state legislatures dropped in November for the first time in 20 years even as women held their own in national politics.

Worries about money and being taken away from other responsibilities were shared about equally by women and men. But men were more confident about their qualifications, with only 34 percent expressing concern on that score.

The caucus says it supports women for office regardless of party affiliation. But it does not endorse female candidates who back more restrictive abortion policies or otherwise do not meet the group's favor.

Of the 47 women elected to the House in November, it backed 30 of the 33 Democrats and six of the 17 Republicans.

But Woods said training sessions would not exclude any women, even if the group could not endorse the candidate.

The sessions will be concentrated in areas where open seats, vulnerable incumbents or the effects of state term limits are creating opportunities for newcomers. California and Maine are examples.