Canadians Divided on Assuming Non-Combat Role in Afghanistan

While just over a third of Canadians support the country’s military mission in Afghanistan, the decision to keep 950 soldiers in a strictly non-combat role after 2011 has split views across the country, a new Angus Reid Public Opinion poll has found.

In the online survey of a representative national sample of 2,023 Canadian adults, more than half of respondents (56%, +1) oppose the military operation involving Canadian soldiers in Afghanistan, while just over a third (36%, +1) support the mission. Strong opposition to the war remains highest in Quebec (48%) while Albertans (19%) and Atlantic Canadians (18%) are more likely to strongly support the mission.

Non-Combat Role in 2011

Canada’s combat mission in Afghanistan is scheduled to end in July 2011. The federal government has announced that Canada will keep 950 soldiers in Afghanistan until 2014 in a strictly non-combat role to help train the Afghan military.

Almost half of Canadians (48%) agree with the decision to keep Canadian soldiers in a non-combat role in Afghanistan, while 44 per cent disagree with this course of action. Majorities of Albertans (62%) and British Columbians (56%) support the decision, while Quebecers (55%) and Atlantic Canadians (51%) are more likely to oppose it.

Three-in-five respondents who voted for the Conservative Party in the 2008 federal election (62%) support the non-combat mission, along with half of Green Party voters (51%) and half of Liberal Party voters (50%). Conversely, respondents who voted for the Bloc Québécois (68%) or the New Democratic Party (NDP) in the 2008 federal ballot (55%) are more likely to oppose the troops taking on a non-combat role after July 2011.

The Mission

One third of Canadians (32%, =) think Canada did the right thing in sending military forces to Afghanistan, while 45 per cent (-2) believe Canada made a mistake. Across the country, 53 per cent of respondents feel that they have a clear idea of what the war in Afghanistan is all about.

When the War is Over

A large proportion of Canadians (35%) remain undecided on what the most likely outcome of the war in Afghanistan will be. About three-in-ten (29%, 2) foresee a negotiated settlement from a position of U.S. and NATO strength that gives the Taliban a small role in the Afghan government.

Eight per cent of Canadians (+2) expect a clear victory by U.S. and NATO forces over the Taliban, while 14 per cent (-1) think that the Taliban will play a significant role in Afghanistan after the war is over, and a similar proportion (13%, -2) believe that U.S. and NATO forces will ultimately be defeated.

Obama’s Plan

Just over a quarter of Canadians (27%, -4) continue to express confidence in the Obama Administration being able to “finish the job” in Afghanistan, while three-in-five (62%, +5) are not too confident or not confident at all in the U.S. federal government.

The Media and the Government

Two-in-five Canadians (43%, -4) claim that the national media has provided the right amount of information about the Afghan mission. For a quarter of respondents (26%, +1), the media is paying too little attention to Afghanistan.

A majority of Canadians (56%, +1) state that the federal government has provided too little information about the conflict, while one-in-four (24%, -1) say the amount of information has been appropriate.


At the time this survey was conducted, 153 Canadian soldiers had died in Afghanistan. Respondents to this survey were asked to enter a numeric response to articulate how many Canadian troops they thought had perished in Afghanistan since 2002.

More than a third of Canadians (36%) provided a response between 134 and 166 soldiers, while 32 per cent believe that fewer than 134 soldiers have died in Afghanistan, and an equal proportion (32%) estimated that more than 166 soldiers have died in the conflict.

Full Report, Detailed Tables and Methodology (PDF)

Methodology: From December 3 to December 6, 2010, Angus Reid Public Opinion conducted an online survey among 2,023 randomly selected Canadian adults who are Angus Reid Forum panelists. The margin of error—which measures sampling variability—is +/- 2.2%, 19 times out of 20. The results have been statistically weighted according to the most current education, age, gender and region Census data to ensure a sample representative of the entire adult population of Canada. Discrepancies in or between totals are due to rounding.

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