Majority of Canadians Still Oppose Military Mission in Afghanistan

Four-in-ten respondents say they lack a clear understanding of what the conflict is about.

A majority of Canadians remain wary about the country’s military engagement in Afghanistan, a new Angus Reid Public Opinion poll has found.

In the online survey of a representative national sample of 1,024 Canadian adults, 53 per cent of respondents oppose the Afghan war, whereas 39 per cent (+2) support it.

Opposition to the war is only slightly down (-6 points) since the June Angus Reid Public Opinion poll on this topic, when it reached a record high.

Additionally, over four-in ten Canadians (43%) think the federal government made a mistake when it decided to send troops to fight the Afghan Taliban.

A large proportion of Canadians (44%) continue to report that they do not have a clear idea of what the Afghan war is all about.

The Mission

At the national level, “strong opposition” to the mission has stabilized at a high 30 per cent this month, while “strong support” stands at 15 per cent. British Columbians express the highest overall support for the mission (51%), surpassing Ontario (49%), Atlantic Canada (47%), and Alberta (45%). Opposition remains highest in Quebec (71%).

When the War is Over

Very few Canadians (6%) think the Afghan war will end with a clear victory by U.S. and NATO forces over the Taliban; 30 per cent think there will be a negotiated settlement from a position of U.S. and NATO strength that gives the Taliban a small role in the Afghan government.

Around one-in-six respondents believe either that the Taliban will play a significant role in Afghanistan after the war is over (17%), or that U.S. and NATO forces will ultimately be defeated (16%).

Obama’s Plan

Consistent with recent findings, Canadians are sceptical of the plan for Afghanistan championed by U.S. President Barack Obama. Only three-in-ten respondents (32%) are confident that the Obama administration will be able to “finish the job” in Afghanistan. Conversely, about three-in-five Canadians (59%) are not.

The Media and the Government

Around half of Canadians (48%) maintain that the national media has reported about the right amount of news about the Afghan mission. However, about three-in-ten respondents (28%) say the media should be offering more coverage on this matter.

As for the government’s handling of information related to the war, most Canadians (57%) remain disappointed with what they see as “too little” done on this front. Only about a quarter of respondents (26%) say the federal administration has properly informed the public about the engagement in Afghanistan.

Full Report, Detailed Tables and Methodology (PDF)

Methodology: From August 5 to August 6, 2010, Angus Reid Public Opinion conducted an online survey among 1,024 randomly selected Canadian adults who are Angus Reid Forum panelists. The margin of error—which measures sampling variability—is +/- 3.1%, 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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