54.6% of Canadians want a withdrawal if casualties climb, compared to 39.3% who see fallen soldiers as an unfortunate but necessary part of the mission.
Conservatives handling of the war:
Canadians are split on how well the Conservative government is managing the mission, with 48.3% saying they disagree or somewhat disagree with the government’s course and 43.9% saying they agree or somewhat agree with how the operation has been handled.
Are we safer:
The poll also reveals a whopping 67% of Canadians believe Canada’s presence in Afghanistan is actually making our country more vulnerable to a terrorist attack. Prime Minister Stephen Harper has consistently sold the mission as a way to bring democracy to Afghans while keeping the terrorist threat at bay, yet only 17.9% of Canadians believe our military might is cutting Canada‚s risk of an attack at home.
Nowhere is the Afghanistan war more unpopular than in Quebec, the seat-rich province that Harper has consistently tried to court as the key to a Conservative majority government.
Among Quebecers polled by SES, 56% said Canada should pull out of Afghanistan if the death toll among our troops keeps rising, anti-war sentiments certain to intensify after troops of the Van Doos regiment from that province are deployed to Kandahar later this summer.
What is particularly striking, a huge majority think our presence in Afghanistan increases our risk of a terrorist attack. Considering one of the main justifications for the war is the perception that it keeps terrorism at bay, these findings undercut one of the key fundamentals of the mission. The disconnect between support for the war and this finding might lie in the "support our troops" sentiment.
Harper has lost the public relations battle, with most Canadians disapproving of the Conservatives handling of the war. I see a direct co-relation between this finding and the recent controversy over the Afghan detainee issue. The Conservatives are losing the confidence of Canadians.
I would describe these numbers as bad for the Conservatives, particularly in Quebec, however I wouldn't go so far is to say they are devastating. That depends on the Liberal position in my mind. If the Liberals hold to the compromise position, a commitment, but a limited one, then the Tories are in trouble. If the perception exists that Harper stands alone in support of the mission, then there is plenty of support for Harper within the electorate. Harper doesn't need an absolute majority, if Canadians see a clear yes/no distinction. Having said that, there should be some concern with base support:
Even among Harper's most cherished base of Conservative supporters, a stunning 40% think the Afghanistan conflict isn't worth losing a lot more Canadian lives.
The real thesis of this poll, Stephen Harper lacks control on this issue, outside events will determine if he is positioned correctly. The KEY point for Liberals, is they must resist Harper's us vs them arguments and continually make the case that there is an alternative to the Tory view, that balances concerns with obligation, a responsible approach.