This article questions how the poll is to be interpreted given that it is to be accepted at face value. Walkom points out the polling itself might have problems but does not really go into them. Neither does he point out that the poll is in contradiction to other polls and data. I have pointed out some of the further problems about the polling itself and the company involved. I will present one further post that shows that the same company has done polls in Iraq that are quite controversial.
Afghan poll not as clear as it seems
Oct 21, 2007 04:30 AM
Do ordinary Afghans want Canada to stay in Kandahar until the Taliban is defeated?
Initial reports of an Environics survey released Thursday suggest the answer is a strong yes. "Majority of Afghans want foreign troops to stay and fight" was The Globe and Mail's headline.
Analysts argued that the poll results, based on interviews conducted last month in the war-torn country, would bolster Prime Minister Stephen Harper's efforts to keep Canadian troops fighting in Kandahar past February 2009.
But when the poll is examined more carefully (it's available at http://erg.environics.net), its findings become far less definitive. Indeed, it is not clear that they provide solace to any of the politicians now debating Canada's Afghan mission.
First, let us be clear about what the survey did not find. It did not find that a majority of Afghans want foreign troops to stay and fight. It did find that a majority of those polled approved of the "presence of foreign countries" in Afghanistan.
But that term "presence" included everything foreigners are doing in the country, from aid to business to soldiering.
In Kandahar, for instance, India was rated more highly than Canada. But, as the survey notes, India's main contribution there is not troops but goods and entrepreneurs.
On the question of foreign troops, the poll concluded that Afghans are split down the middle – with 52 per cent calling for a full withdrawal within five years versus 43 per cent who want NATO to stay until the Taliban are crushed.
In short, the vast majority of Afghans don't want us to keep fighting in their country until, as Harper puts it, the job is done. Yet neither, it seems, do they favour those, like the New Democrats, who would pull out Canadian troops immediately, or even those, like the Liberals, who would have us end our combat role by 2009.
Elsewhere, the poll results are equally murky. On the one hand, the survey shows that close to three quarters of Afghans do not like the Taliban – thereby strengthening Harper's pro-war argument.
Yet at the same time, 74 per cent say they want their government to negotiate with the Taliban, which is the NDP position.
And more than half say they want to be ruled by a coalition government that includes the Taliban.
Assuming that it is possible to carry out a scientific poll in a country wracked by civil war, what then does this survey tell us?
One, it demonstrates that Afghans do not want to be abandoned by the world again. Hence the overwhelming desire for a continued "foreign presence." Two, while they do not like the Taliban, neither do they demonize them – which is why most would prefer a negotiated end to civil war over continued violence.
Three, they are deeply ambivalent about the presence of foreign troops. They don't want to throw them out. But, at the same time, they are not sure they want them to remain indefinitely. There is a limit to their patience and hospitality.
Finally, the survey provides a rather humbling insight into how Afghans view Canada's military role. The short answer is that they don't. Even in Kandahar, just 2 per cent of those polled knew that Canada was fighting the Taliban. Germany got a bigger mention and it has no troops there.
When Afghans were asked specifically about Canada, most were delightfully complimentary. But first they had to be reminded we were there. One hopes they weren't just being polite.
Thomas Walkom's column appears Thursday and Sunday.