Only seven per cent of Canadians strongly support the Afghanistan mission, while the total number of those opposed in Quebec remains high at 75 per cent, according to a new poll by The Strategic Counsel.

The survey, conducted between July 12-16 for CTV and The Globe and Mail, suggests the level of intensity for Canadians strongly opposed to the mission is far greater than those who are in firm support: (percentage point change from a July 12-15, 2006 poll in brackets):

  • Total Support: 36 per cent (-3)
  • Strongly Support: 7 per cent (-1)
  • Support: 29 per cent (-2)
  • Oppose: 31 per cent (same)
  • Strongly oppose: 27 per cent (+2)
  • Total Oppose: 59 per cent (+3)

Peter Donolo, a partner with The Strategic Counsel, told the numbers show only a small minority of core supporters for deploying troops to the war-ravaged country.

"In every single region, the level of strong support is in the single digits," said Donolo. "Whereas the level of strong opposition ranges from 41 per cent in Quebec to the mid-20s everywhere else."

Quebec showed the strongest opposition towards the mission of any other region in Canada.

Earlier this month, anti-war protesters crashed a parade for the Quebec-based 22nd Regiment known as the Van Doos, who are now being deployed to Afghanistan.

The soldiers also received about 3,000 letters asking them not to go.

Only three per cent of Quebecers strongly support deploying troops to Afghanistan (percentage point change from a July 12-15, 2006 poll in brackets):

  • Total Support: 22 per cent (-2)
  • Strongly Support: 3 per cent (NA)
  • Support: 19 per cent (-5)
  • Oppose: 34 per cent (-2)
  • Strongly oppose: 41 per cent (+6)
  • Total Oppose: 75 per cent (+4)

"This mission has been unpopular in Quebec virtually from the beginning," said Donolo.

He added that "this kind of pejorative sense that we're there because the U.S. wants us to be there has the strongest hold in Quebec."

When respondents were asked what they thought was the main reason for Canada's involvement in Afghanistan, less than half of Quebecers felt it was because of broader obligations:

  • Canada is in Afghanistan mainly because of pressure from the U.S. in response to the attack on 9/11: 54 per cent
  • Canada is in Afghanistan because it has an obligation within the broader internal community to respond to the threat of global terrorism: 42 per cent.

Those numbers are almost a complete inversion of the combined results across Canada, where 44 per cent thought the U.S. had pressured Ottawa, and 53 per cent felt it was to fight global terrorism.

Meanwhile, a majority of Canadians showed unease over the escalating casualty figures in Afghanistan, where 66 military personnel and one diplomat have died since 2002.

Across Canada, 60 per cent felt that number was too high a cost, while 36 per cent thought the level of casualties was justifiable.

In Quebec alone, 72 per cent thought the price was too high, while 26 per cent felt it was the price that must be paid for Afghanistan's stability and security.

With such major opposition to the war, the support for the Conservative government appears to be slipping in Quebec.

"It's a bit of a catch-22 for the government, because as long as Afghanistan is in the headlines and the focus of so much attention, their own party numbers in Quebec have declined," said Donolo.

When asked who respondents would vote for today, more Quebecers supported the Bloc Quebecois and Liberals (percentage point change from a May 14-17 poll in brackets):

  • Bloc Quebecois: 40 per cent (-1)
  • Liberals: 25 per cent (+1)
  • Conservatives: 16 per cent (-4)
  • NDP: 10 per cent (+4)
  • Greens: 9 per cent (same)

But across Canada, it remains a horse race between the Conservatives and Liberals, suggesting neither party has the momentum needed to secure a majority government:

  • Conservatives: 31 per cent (- 3 per cent)
  • Liberals: 31 per cent (same)
  • NDP: 17 per cent (+1)
  • Bloc Quebecois: 10 per cent (same)
  • Greens: 10 per cent (+1)

Technical notes

  • The poll was conducted by The Strategic Counsel for CTV and The Globe and Mail.
  • Interviews were conducted between July 12 and July 16, 2007.
  • Results are based on tracking among a proportionate national sample of Canadians 18 years of age or older.
  • One thousand people were surveyed.
  • The national margin of error is plus or minus 3.1 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.
  • The Quebec sample size is 247, with a 6.3 percentage point margin of error.