Sunday, May 06, 2007

Interesting Afghanistan Poll

The SES Afghanistan poll has many interesting findings, which should give the Conservatives pause. Support for the mission:
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.

Quebecers:
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.

37 comments:

ottlib said...

If the US experience is any indication, once support for the war drops it does not come back.

As well, as goes the support for the war so goes the support for the Party most identified with it.

So if this poll proves to be the beginning of a trend look for the Conservatives to talk up hard the Liberal role in getting involved in this war.

The goal will be to attempt to make it as damaging to the Liberals as it will be to the Conservatives. As well, they will be trying to force the Liberals to change their current position so they can level charges of flip-flopping on them.

Steve V said...

"look for the Conservatives to talk up hard the Liberal role in getting involved in this war.'

That tactic could have worked, had it not been for Harper's zeal in making the mission his own. I've never understood it, because he had cover, but he wrapped himself in militarism and warped patriotism. No matter the history, Canadians have come to identify this as Harper's war, because of Harper himself.

janfromthebruce said...

"So if this poll proves to be the beginning of a trend look for the Conservatives to talk up hard the Liberal role in getting involved in this war."

Well, that won't be very hard, considering that it was the liberals who got Canadians involved in Afghanistan, and in the South. Also, it was under the liberal regime, when the liberals signed an agreement where there was no oversight for detainees, where Canadians handed them over, to Afghanistan control. And the liberals, in minority opposition position, did vote with Harper's Conservatives to extend the mission until 2007.

Those are the facts, mame!

ottlib said...

Steve:

I agree with you but janfrombruce proves that the strategy I outlined will be somewhat effective.

Remember Mr. Harper's strategy will be to take the Afghan war away as a weapon for the Liberals to beat the Conservatives over the head with. His interest will be to limit the political damage, not to actually govern or make tough choices.

And judging from jan's response the Dippers will be right there helping out their old buddy Mr. Harper every step of the way.

As an aside, as soon as the Green Party supplants the NDP as the third party in this country the better of this country will be. The Dippers have truly lost their way.

Miles Lunn said...

I agree with Steve V - that Harper could have easily said they he was simply honouring a mission the Liberals started and his poll numbers wouldn't suffer for it. But instead he decided to make it his own mission. Usually politicians steal popular ideas from other parties not unpopular ones. For example it was the Reform and PC parties in 1993 that called for balancing the budget and the Liberals took this from them and made it their own policy and did so quite successfully. But this was a popular one and more importantly it knee capped both those parties as they had to run on their unpopular ones if they wanted to distinguish themselves from the Liberals.

Instead here Harper takes one of the weakest Liberal policies it makes it his own. I also think Harper wants to adopt a pre-Pearsonian foreign policy, but as I point out on my blog, I don't think many Canadians are interested in this.

In the case of the United States, it is true the War in Iraq has really hurt the Republicans although interestingly enough corruption actually came out as the number one reason according to the CNN exit polls for their thumping in the midterm elections. Although I think if anything the corruption just motivated more voters who normally sit out midterm elections to come out.

Another ironic thing in the US is the state of New York, which was where 9/11 occurred is where Bush so one of his biggest increases in 2004, but his biggest drop in the midterms suggesting when they realized that he took advantage of the tragedy there was a huge backlash against him.

I should also bring up Britain where the Iraq War has really hurt Tony Blair's popularity and now the Conservatives have a strong lead in Britain despite the fact that had it not been for the Conservative votes in favour of the war, Britain wouldn't have gone (the Conservatives were needed to offset the Labour Party rebels since 1/3 of Labour MPs voted against Iraq).

knb said...

ottlib: I agree with you but janfrombruce proves that the strategy I outlined will be somewhat effective.

I disagree. What jan has presented is a pretty convoluted message for the con's:

"We believe in the mission, but the lib's started it, so we agree with what they did then, but don't agree with their current strategy of engaging NATO now, (to plan for redeployment to another area of Afghanistan, when our committment is up in '09). They own strategy going forward and that strategy is an unending committment. They own this now.

Jan's party of course, out of bitterness, will point out that the Lib's got us in, but they'll have to defend how they didn't support a Liberal bill to get us out and instead voted with the con's. Good luck with that.

wilson said...

Weren't you Libs listening?
-Opposition cares more about the terrorists than our soldiers.
-Opposition accuses our soldiers of war crimes.
-Opposition chooses to believe the Globe and Mail rather than our military.

You bet he took this mission as his own! And he won't give it back.
As bad as the Conservatives looked over the last 2 weeks, all of the above was proved out.
No, PMSH is not going to lay any thing at the feet of the Liberals.
Expect more of the above, you earned it.

JimBobby said...

Before anyone can get "blamed" for Afstan, we need to agree that it ain't workin' an' we ain't winnin'. So far, lotsa players keep sayin' it's a winnin' campaign. If Liberals wanna distance themselves from teh campaign, they'll need to stick their necks out and criticize the change in direction and the lack of real progress. The obligatory "support the troops" stance means that there's plenty of pussyfootin' when there oughta be tough questions.

If anybody sez we ain't winnin', they get accused of not supportin' the troops.

It's goona turn out that the Grits gotta take some blame. I reckon they oughta figger out the best way of ownin' up to what's their fault and then showin' what's Harper's fault.

Then, the grits gotta do somethin' bold. They gotta work with the NDP to get us the hell outta the mess they helped get us into. It won't help if Dips join the Cons in the fingerpointin' department.

"Sure can't build bridges when the foundations keep on getting bombed."

JB

Steve V said...

"Expect more of the above, you earned it."

Wilson, keep it coming, because the strategy is FAILING BADLY. Canadians don't endorse the wedge politics on this issue, and the above points you raise have already been described as "turning people off". Keep up the good work!

jan

You entire post, not one mention of the Conservatives, typical NDP focus. Keep picking the wrong fights, and when you lose official party status, don't be shocked.

Jeff said...

Liberals approve mission - Liberals say the mission has changed - No proof offered - Lying??? - I dont know, I am still waiting for a reply for Dion's office on proof the mission has changed - nothing in 1 month - well he's busy.
Liberals sign agreement to hand over prisoners. - Apparently this is the cons fault??? Paul Martin disappears so he does not have to explain the agreement.

Dion says bring terrorists to Canada. This is the most stupid thing he has said as leader - I'm sure there will be more....

wilson said...

''Wilson, keep it coming, because the strategy is FAILING BADLY.''

That's what you Libs don't get.
It's not strategy.
It's the PM taking a stand, standing behind the troops and the mission, and the Liberals retreating from their original acceptance of the mission on behalf of all Canadians, because they are out to garner Dipper/Bloc votes.
The wedge is in the new Liberal party. The new LP is a shell of the Liberal Party of Canada chalked full of borrowed NDPs.

Steve V said...

It's called a pragmatic approach to a fluid situation. The only one makes this a wedge issue is Harper, just like every other issue.

ottlib said...

George Bush has the lowest approval ratings of a US President in history because of the War in Iraq.

Stephen Harper's war in Afghanistan has the potential to do the same thing to him and the Conservatives.

Except, Stephen Harper has the ability to claim the Liberals began the mission. Do not think for a minute that he will not play that up to the hilt if support for the war and his party really start to slide. As well, do not think for a minute that the NDP will not be there to help him out.

If things really start going bad he will not be able to reverse it but he will try his best to prevent the Liberals from benefiting from it. Which is why the Dippers will be assisting him all the way.

Whether it works or not is anybody's guess but it may be the only play he will have left.

ottlib said...

jeff said:

"Liberals sign agreement to hand over prisoners. - Apparently this is the cons fault??? Paul Martin disappears so he does not have to explain the agreement."

That is the nature of the beast jeff. Once a party is thrown out of office it is no longer on the hook for the fall-out of the decisions it made. Canadians actually believe that the sitting government takes over the responsibility and they expect them to discharge it. (Silly I know, what are they thinking?) Blaming the previous government only works for about the first 6 months, which according to my math ended about 9 months ago.

It sucks being in power eh jeff? It certainly would be nice to have the trappings of power without all of those inconvenient responsibilities to go along with it wouldn't it?

Tell you what, I will make you an offer. Convince your Conservative brethren to lose the next election to the Liberals. Then you can go back to complaining about what the Liberals are doing and what they did without having any responsibility whatsoever.

I think that is a hell of a deal. You would be happy, Liberals would be happy and the country would be alot better off. (I realize that last part is a rather subjective statement.)

However, if you do not like the deal then I would suggest that you suck it up, take responsibility for governing and stop complaining. It is becoming rather tiresome.

Anonymous said...

I believe Nik and the numbers are way off base with this poll...being a senior and on a lot of buses and listening as a people watcher...I have never heard anyone that supports this uncalled for war...I think the SUN has got to ses. God Help us

ottlib said...

anonymous:

When SES publishes their quarterly polls they are paid for by CPAC, which is generally non-partisan.

However, the real gravy train for SES is the Sun Group of newspapers so for every other poll published by SES the sponsors cannot be considered non-partisan.

SES is like every other polling company. It needs a regular sponsor to keep it in business and it will protect that relationship any way it can once it gets one.

So SES was gotten to a long time ago. The key when looking at their results is to see who paid for them. If it is the Sun, do not trust them as for as you can throw them. If it is CPAC, still do not trust them, it is polling afterall, but know that any results are relatively non-partisan.

Anonymous said...

The Liberals committed Canadian troops to Afghanistan and now they jump right in with the media to smear the troops based on the flimsiest allegations.

Hopefully voters remember that too.

knb said...

wilson: That's what you Libs don't get.
It's not strategy.
It's the PM taking a stand, standing behind the troops and the mission,


Wilson, not one credible commentator has said that Harper handled this situation well and most have roundly condemned him, his Minister of Defense and others. Of course he was employing a strategy, one that has failed in the US and will fail here.

Kind of like the strategy being employed on the Environment file. No one credible backs that either.

Ottlib, I don't disagree with what you are saying. I think both the con's and ndp will do their utmost to "blame the Lib's", I just don't think it'll stick.

Steve V said...

"The Liberals committed Canadian troops to Afghanistan and now they jump right in with the media to smear the troops based on the flimsiest allegations.

Hopefully voters remember that too."

They don't seem to be at the moment, because people recognize that is important to clear up the Tory varying stories. It's not the allegations necessarily, it's the disorganized, every changing explanation, and that lies right at Harper doorstep.

knb said...

No one has smeared the troops of course. This ridiculous claim seems to be held only by Harpers core supporters...oh, and the government of course.

It's a juvenile response to questions that they are unable to answer. It did not work in the US and will not work here, in fact it works against them.

We all know that the Lib's joined the NATO mission after 9/11. While I've never bee 100% supportive of that, I understood it. Had Harper not played with our role and committment, by bringing an extension to the House for a vote, we'd be out by now.

That was the moment that Harper "owned" this mission. Indeed some Lib's voted with the con's, but if you saw the debates, that support was contingent on the mission not having a singular focus on combat.

Whether Harper had the support of the Lib's or not, he stated he would commit our troops for one more year. So, we'd be there right now even if every party voted against Harper. He owns the current mission.

Finally, he is the PM now, so he owns the mission.

This conservative party has spent their entire time in power blaming someone else for their errors. Somehow, I can't see too many Canadians rushing to support a party that say's little more than, "it's not our fault" and "they did it first".

Mushroom said...

Since the Dippers are the ones that call for immediate withdrawal, then the logic of this poll should be the ones to benefit most when more casualties are inflicted.

Liberals voted to affirm staying until 2009. This is like a John Kerry approach. Of course, we can use the Senate to cut funding for the troops if we dislike the way Harper conducts this war.

Steve V said...

mushroom

That's a fair point, but I don't like the Kerry analogy. There is a difference between Afghanistan and Iraq, you can make a moral case that is rational with Afghanistan, you know the rest. I think that relevant, in that, many of those that oppose the mission can still some validity in the idea. Because of this fact, I don't think people automatically move to the NDP on this issue. Initial support for the mission was much higher, which puts some people at odds with the consistent NDP response. I could be wrong, but as support for the mission has dropped, we have seen no corresponding boost in NDP support, in fact it is generally down and flat.

knb

You know what scares me about some Tory supporters? The way they mimic, verbatum, the government lines. They offer nothing to the conversation, other than parroting what they have been told. Sheep, sorry to say.

knb said...

Indeed Steve. Without meaning to be rude, that really seems to be the core. That a party has support from people who cannot think for themselves, is frightening.

Now, there are exceptions of course, but there are far too many who fit that description.

Mushroom, Liberals voted to affirm staying until 2009.

In fact, Liberal's voted to honour our international agreement with NATO. They also voted to prepare now to have another nation take our place as we redeploy elsewhere in the country. In other words, they voted for what is logical and honourable given the circumstances.

Your comment re'the NDP gains, I understand, but as Steve points out, it does not seem to be working so far.

BTW, I keep wondering how the NDP demand that the gov't honour it's International Agreement called Kyoto, (which I agree with), understand the need to abide by the Geneva Conventions vis a vis detainees, but think it is okay to abandon our responsibility to honour our agreement with NATO.

Odd that, don't you think?

Steve V said...

knb

The NDP should really stop using the "honoring our commitments" line because the hypocrisy is so obvious. Even if you use the line that the NDP never supported the mission, the Conservatives could counter that they never supported Kyoto. You don't get to pick and choose, and the only one with a consistent position would appear to be those evil Liberals.

janfromthebruce said...

"Sure can't build bridges when the foundations keep on getting bombed."

I agree with JB on this and I liked how he put it, too!

Poking your potential political partner in the eye sure doesn't help them want to support you. Your motion, as Stephen Staples from Ceasefire pointed out in 'letting the cat out of the bag', tried to work with getting NDP support, but alas, the liberals seemed more intent on playing politics than actually 'bringing the troops' home.

It does require bold action, JB says, working with the NDP and the BLOC, rather than working with the Cons and keeping the troops their indefinitely (just move them from the South but to where and for how long?), and more interested in working at getting the NDP to "los[ing] official party status"; what a shock that you reveal the liberals true intent of your phoney motion.

We might be bitter, but at least we are not 'twisted.'

Steve V said...

"Poking your potential political partner in the eye sure doesn't help them want to support you."

Jan, I couldn't agree more. Which is why the NDP pre-occupation with bashing the Liberals relentlessly is such a turnoff. I suggest a re-viewing of the last election debates. Where was ALL of Layton's fire directed? Exactly. BTW, still waiting for a hansard copy in the first session after the election, wherein Layton didn't preface EVERY question with a Liberal reference. I'm sure there is one, but I don't have the hours it would take to find it :)

Scotian said...

"knb

The NDP should really stop using the "honoring our commitments" line because the hypocrisy is so obvious. Even if you use the line that the NDP never supported the mission, the Conservatives could counter that they never supported Kyoto. You don't get to pick and choose, and the only one with a consistent position would appear to be those evil Liberals." Steve V 7:20 PM, May 06, 2007

It is one of the things I find particularly grating in fact whenever I hear it from Layton or any NDPers lips and fingers these days. I supported the Liberal motion because it stuck with a commitment, one I didn't like but one in which I understand the importance of keeping our word. Indeed, I believe I made that comment here as well at other places in the not too distant past only to have those like Janfromthebruce mock that attitude. This is one of the things that pisses me off most from both NDP and CPC partisans, they feel they can pick and choose between legally binding agreements based solely on their ideological preferences regardless of what our actual commitments may be.

I take more than a little exception to *ANY* government doing so of any political persuasion, because one of the main currencies we have as an international player/influence is the strength of that word, even when later political dynamics make keeping it less than domestically advantageous. This has been one of ours strengths, and this is one of the things the CPC Kyoto approach/policy is seriously compromising, just as the detainees question is on Geneva, and just as arbitrarily leaving short of our committed deadline for 2009 in Afghanistan would be. There is no difference in that governments must honour the word given by the government of Canada, and if it is going to withdraw from an internationally binding agreement then it must be done in a legal manner within the available framework if there is one, and if not then well we are stuck with it. To break that word should not occur under any but the most serious/grave of circumstances where to not to so will clearly do more damage to the nation than by keeping it, and even then it should be thought through carefully and not simply rushed through IMHO.

I really do not understand why this is such a hard concept for some to grasp, I really, Really, REALLY don't.

Steve V said...

"I really do not understand why this is such a hard concept for some to grasp, I really, Really, REALLY don't."

They do understand the concept Scotian, but it only applies to certain issues that are politically convenient, apparently.

knb said...

Jan: rather than working with the Cons and keeping the troops their indefinitely

Your party voted with them! Do you not see how ridiculous this looks.

I understand why they did, and I suspect most political wonks do, but do you really think it's going to play out that way to the average person? Gosh, you even risk the con's saying you supported their motion.

Look, you and I mostly agree on this issue, but I'm consistent with not breaking international obligations. You cannot pick and choose which you support, if you are defending Canada's word.

I wish fewer Lib's had supported the extension, but I understand why they did and would agree it was political. Again, you have to go back to that place in time and understand how the Con's were poised to use a nay vote against the Lib's.

Eye poking? I'm sorry Jan, I don't know where you are coming from here, since it is the NDP who does this more than most. The Lib's have started to fight back recently, but they were not bashing the NDP, it was the other way around and still is.

I think your strategy is wrong, plain and simple. You do not need to support the Lib's, but your party could do a better job at focusing on the con's. I know that Layton wants to be in power, as he should do, being the leader of the party. But surely to gawd, we all know that is not possible at the moment and wouldn't it be more logical to have Lib's there?

Oh wait a minute, it just occured to me how good this is for Jack. He has his best opportunity to portray how left he is and appeal to that element in the country, with Harper as a foil.

Silly strategy because he is looking a tad fringe right now and that can only be bad for the party.

knb said...

Scotian: This is one of the things that pisses me off most from both NDP and CPC partisans, they feel they can pick and choose between legally binding agreements based solely on their ideological preferences regardless of what our actual commitments may be.

Precisely!

Scotian, I honestly believe that there is a lack of logical thought. Every thought seems consumed with defending their position and there is no rational debate going on in these minds.

Sad really.

ottlib said...

I would not characterize the Afghan mission extension as an international agreement. It was a unilateral vote of the Canadian parliament. As Parliament makes a decision it can change that decision so there is no international obstacle in pulling out Canadian troops. The only obstacle right now is the current will of Parliament.

It is true, a Parliamentary change of mind would probably not reflect well on Canada or Canadians and it would call into question whether the world could trust the word of our Parliament.

However, all of that needs to be weighed against the human cost of keeping our troops in southern Afghanistan.

So I guess you could say I am torn. I can see the argument of those who say Canada has made a commitment and I tend to lean in that direction in my own way of thinking. However, I can also see the the arguments of those who want an immediate withdrawal, particularly since the mission is increasingly looking like a no-win situation for our troops.

In short there is no easy answer and no matter which one we choose there is going to be a huge downside.

Canada's international reputation and the reputation of its Parliament or the lives of Canada's military personnel, that is the dilemma.

Which one do you choose? Do you think short or long term? Do you think of the country as a whole or the individual lives of the soldiers and their families?

Tough questions with no easy answers which is why our politicians prefer to play politics with this issue as opposed to actually dealing with it.

ottlib said...

Re-reading my last post I noticed I did miss one big consideration.

There is a very big practical consideration in the decision, which is the vacuum that would be left behind by a sudden and unilateral withdrawal of Canadian troops.

From a practical perspective Canada would have to provide its allies with a timetable for them to find replacements. The only question would be the length of that timetable. The Liberals have chosen to the end of the current mission in 2009. The Conservatives and the NDP do not have such a timetable. Instead they just choose the extreme options, open ended commitment or unilateral and immediate withdrawel.

Neither is very practical in my view.

knb said...

Ottlib, through that extension, we committed to NATO. I suspect there IS a formal agreement. Our government was obviously negotiating with them at that point.

If you can prove to me that we signed nothing, I'll see your point.

Yikes, I'm usually in full agreement with you, this is odd.

ottlib said...

knb:

I cannot prove it one way or another except to say that if there was a formal agreement then it would have been made public by now, either on purpose of by means of a leak. There is no way you could keep something that big a secret. There are too many players.

And all hell would have broken loose by now if it was revealed the Stephen Harper had negotiated such an agreement but did not bother negotiating and end date to it.

So, there are a few obstacles to Canada's early withdrawal from Afghanistan but an international agreement is not one of them.

Anonymous said...

They call it flip-flopping. I'd call it re-assessment.

If Bush would have re-assessed the Iraq war a long time ago, perhaps he wouldn't be in the mess he's in today.

It's smart to study and re-assess.

The NDP make me laugh. They are absolutely horrified that Canada would break a commitment-Kyoto. But, are willing to break a commitment with NATO.

Can't have it both ways - either we honour commitments or we don't.

Steve V said...

Can't we tailor our mission within the commitment? I know we are under NATO's command, but given the few participants, we should have significant input. If Canadian forces want to re-access within the commitment, I think we have that latitude. The U.S doesn't dictate strategy, or at least they shouldn't, maybe we need to look at ways to stay now, but re-focus??

Mushroom said...

Steve,

As of today, the Canadian Parliament has decided that there is still an open ended commitment to engage in combat near Kandahar due to the CPC and the NDP rejecting the 2009 deadline for possible redeployment into safer zones in Afghanistan. Of course, the Liberals reject the NDP resolution to withdraw the troops immediately. This means that the Afghanistan issue is fair game to anyone who wants to exploit it to their own liking.

I am suggesting the Kerry 2004 position because the Liberals can ratchet the calls for withdrawal should the NATO campaign goes completely pear shaped ie. Democrats after tge 2006 congressional elections.