"This is a report that has not fundamentally altered the underlying support of Canadians for their current positions," Wright, vice-president of Ipsos Reid, said Friday in an interview. "They've basically maintained the same thing for the last couple of years. But what it's done is opened the door to us staying there in another capacity."
"It's not hard against, it's not hard for," he said. "There's no mandate given here for anything except discussion about more details as to what they may do."
I read the above as supporting the idea that the Liberals, in particular, don't need to take their policy cues from the Manley panel.
The poll finds support for outright withdrawal weakening:
The portion of Canadians who want Canadian troops to withdraw from Afghanistan has dropped seven points to 37 per cent.
If you add the people who want the mission extended, the status quo, plus the people who support a presence, but different, you find a majority:
The portion willing to extend the mission if the role shifts from combat to non-combat, such as training Afghan soldiers or police officers, has risen five points to 45 per cent since October.
"Only 14 per cent believe we should be doing the combat mission as we currently are," he noted, "but when you add them to the people who say we should stay and maybe do something different, then you have a full majority of the people in this country believing that to be the case."
Overall support for the mission remains unchanged:
Ipsos Reid reported that Canadians received the Manley report "cautiously," given that regardless of the panel's recommendations, the country remains split - 50 per cent in support and 46 opposed - to the current counter-insurgency mission in Afghanistan. Those numbers were virtually the same in August.
Afghanistan polls reveal a sophistication in Canadian opinion, opinions that aren't easily swayed. People are able to differentiate between a realization that Canada has a role to play and what that role should be. The poll credits Manley for generating further discussion about the future of the mission, and I suppose that fact is a positive coming out of Harper's public relations exercise.