Monday, March 13, 2006

New Afghanistan Poll

A new Strategic Counsel poll offers some insight into Canadians thoughts on Afghanistan:
The poll found 78 per cent of Canadians surveyed think that the presence of Canadian troops in Afghanistan will improve the lives of people there, while 14 per cent don't.

Fifty-nine per cent of respondents think that casualties are an acceptable price to pay while 39 per cent disagree.

Seventy-three per cent of respondents said they are emotionally attached to their troops, while 26 per cent are not.

Of those who are emotionally attached, the vast majority, 83 per cent, are proud of them, while 13 per cent are not.

Overall, 55 per cent of Canadians support sending troops to Afghanistan, while 41 per cent do not.

On the surface, you would conclude that Canadians are largely supportive of the mission in Afghanistan. However, this finding suggests why the numbers are skewed towards support:
70 per cent of respondents think Canadian troops are in Afghanistan as peacekeepers, rather than in a combat role.

This result may explain why an overwhelming number of Canadians think we will improve the lives of the people. The fact that people view our role as "peacekeeping" is a combination of our traditional role internationally, coupled with a lack of understanding. When Canadians are asked a more realistic question pertaining to our actual role in Afghanistan the numbers are different:
47 per cent of respondents think Canadians should not be involved in a combat role in international conflicts, compared to 51 per cent who think they should.

The poll also finds that, despite the perceived support, an overwhelming 69% think we should debate a prolonged engagement. The main conclusion I take away from this poll is that Canadians support our troops, but are certainly not clear as to the true nature of our mission. The shift in support when the mission changes from peacekeeping to a combat role should worry the Harper government, because invariably we will see combat casualties and the sober reality of our role will crystallize in Canadians minds. I'm not convinced Canadians really understand the nature of the mission, that being Canada is now the military vanguard.

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