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RSR ROBBINS Research - Canada Politics May 27, 2007
  May 27, 2007

This is a random telephone sample of 1,150 respondents throughout the Greater Vancouver Regional District in the Province of British Columbia Canada, between May 22-27, 2005. This poll features a margin of error of 1.85%, 19 times out of 20 @99% confidence/competency level. This poll is sponsored by Glen P. Robbins and Associates, ROBBINS ASK, and ROBBINS Media Works plus another.

Question #1
Who or what is the Taliban?
Could Answer    68 %
Could Not Answer    32 %
Question #2
The Taliban is the former government in Afghanistan initially ousted by the U.S. government post September 9-11 bombings of the World Trade Centre etc. Since then, Canada as part of NATO has become involved commencing under the federal Liberal government, and now with the Stephen Harper Conservative government in the conflict against the Taliban. Canada’s involvement in that country is predicated in keeping the Taliban from returning to government and in addition to establishing the institutional infrastructure of the country, the 3rd poorest in the world. In your opinion should the Harper Conservative government negotiate with the Taliban for the purpose of some type of ‘peace’ proposal?
Yes    41 %
No    59 %
Question #3
Currently, the Canadian government and House of Commons have voted to keep Canadian troops in Afghanistan until early 2009. If progress can be clearly demonstrated to the Canadian people and to you personally would you favour extending this deadline beyond early 2009?
Yes    52 %
No    48 %
Question #4
Is it your opinion that you would want to see Canadians, and specifically the Canadian military out of Afghanistan within the next six months?
Yes    18 %
No    82 %
Commentary
Observations:
As it often is with “Yes” or “No” responses, the whole story is not often told. That is why ROBBINS takes every effort to properly interview respondents in terms of assessing their (sometimes) varying degree of response relative to the “Yes” or “No” options. Sometimes, this permits the respondent to be more certain about their response, or in the alternative a respondent can allocate a portion of the “10” total amount to a response to either side of the “Yes” “No” ‘equation’. This is similar to a lawyer asking a witness the question, on a scale of 1 to 10….
The criteria established in Q#1 to achieve a “Could” denotation were based on whether or not a respondent included a number of key requirements. The region of the world, and more specifically the country involved, Afghanistan, had to be mentioned in the response to merit a “Could” outcome. The Taliban had to specifically be seen to be opposed to Canadian objectives in that country, no matter how this was articulated. Approximately one half of the “Could Not” responses were not even close, while the other half would characterize the Taliban as “Arabs” or “Terrorists” or other. If the word “terrorist” was used (which denotes an assumption of anti-Canadian strategic interest) callers were instructed to give the respondent another opportunity and would ask “terrorists located where?” Callers were also instructed to accept Pakistan as an accurate response for location although Afghanistan was the preferred choice because that is where Canadian troops are located. If the respondent could not provide sufficient prompts of knowledge they were noted as a “Could Not” response.
Only a minority of respondents was able to answer “Yes” or “No” to question #2 in a firm and unequivocal fashion while over two-thirds had to apportion their degree of “Yes” and “No” on the ROBBINS 10 point scale. A majority of respondents who answered “No” to question #2 did so in a firm and unequivocal fashion, and most of these were also able to properly identify who the Taliban were in question #1. To the extent that we can compare those who were firm in their “No” to peace talks with the Taliban in question #2, relative to the number of respondents who want the Canadian military out of Afghanistan in question #4, the ratio is 60/40, with the former certain of no peace talks with the Taliban and the latter certain they don’t want Canadian troops in Afghanistan. Characterized in this way, relative to the questions and outcomes used to produce this relationship, our ROBBINS strategic calling environment of the Greater Vancouver Regional District is nearly precisely opposite to the inferences which might be drawn from the recent Decima poll from across Canada.
Thereafter, the remaining respondents who allocated their “Yes”, “No” respondents were split on whether or not they knew who or what the Taliban was. To some extent, respondents positions were later clarified in question #4, an in many cases, the respondents who apportioned their answer in question #2, ‘gave up the ghost’ in question #4 and finally admitted they wanted the Canadian military out of Afghanistan. A majority of these respondents could not tell us who the Taliban were.
Firmness of response under any condition ‘went out the window’ with question #3, where respondents in a super majority had to either think out their response, or in the alternative make an allocation based on conflicting perceptions about the conflict. Many respondents who selected “peace talks” with the Taliban in question #2 were willing to allocate some of their “Yes” response to an extension of Canada’s involvement in Afghanistan in question #3, while many respondents who answered “No” with respect to “peace talks” with the Taliban were reluctant to extend the mission past 2009 because of the historical failures of others in Afghanistan, AND the limited amount of assistance these respondents feel Canada is receiving from other NATO countries, unrelated to the reason for our being in Afghanistan in the first place.
Respondents generally could accept Canada’s role as peacemaker to some extent, but if that role is revealed to be dominant to the extent that it seriously supersedes our role as peacekeepers may eventually alter perceptions about our overall involvement in Afghanistan. Currently, this perception is well mitigated from current perceptions of men and women alike who accept that “it is a war”. However, this should not deter the Prime Minister from articulating his preference for an outcome for "peace" for Afghanistan and the Afghan people.
Respondents in this ROBBINS poll do not view Canada's motivation for its presence in Afghanistan as anything but positive. Do we want their oil? No. Do we want their poppy fields? No. This when coupled with the sentiment that U.S. President George W. Bush has been better controlled by Congress, makes Canadians disconnect between U.S. foreign policy in Iraq and Canada's involvement in Afghanistan, and more particularly assures Prime Minister Stephen Harper that he operates in the region in Canada's interests, with no ties to the United States foreign policy. This perception change in public opinion cannot be underscored enough!
Commentary
Although this ROBBINS poll is undertaken in the lower mainland of British Columbia (Greater Vancouver Regional District), and not Canada, it nonetheless calls into some question the predecessor Decima polls results wherein it is suggested that two-thirds of respondents were interested in Canada engaging in peace talks with the Taliban. The primae facie evidence of conflicting outcomes in terms of overall numbers are unlikely to be explained by Decima’s outcomes in Quebec, but notwithstanding this, it is our impression that if respondents are not properly aware of the actors involved in the question, (i.e. the Taliban and the Canadian military) they are far more likely (in our opinion) to take a “why not” approach to suggestions of “peace talks”.
A clear majority of Canadians are currently comfortable with our military role in Afghanistan. A majority of respondents who DO NOT support peace talks with the Taliban are somewhat dubious about extending Canada’s involvement in the region. Part of their impression is historically based, including primarily the former Soviet Union’s failures there, the United States failures in Iraq, and primarily the lack of military support from NATO. There is no sense of animosity toward the Canadian government, only unwavering support for Canadian troops, but mountains of doubt about others involved in this area and elsewhere, which cumulatively make Canadians in this ROBBINS poll a little anxious about granting extensions to our participations there.
Improvement in any of these aforementioned conditions would bode well for deadline extensions, however there is a stronger sense that many respondents would accept a more concerted effort now, including more troops and more money to improve the situation in Afghanistan. The Prime Minister needs to tell our NATO allies that their participation isn’t satisfactory and needs to make it clear that if Canada invests more in Afghanistan we will certainly be taking more credit for any success. We believe there is a real undercurrent of desire among many Canadians that we will be successful in Afghanistan and for this reason, this I cannot say enough about how important the government’s policy (and I mean the Opposition as well) and the news coverage of this conflict is, including our humanitarian role. Canadians have the stomach for fighting, but not if they cannot see ‘good deeds’ as a commensurate achievement. Respondents understand why we are there and see the cause as primarily noble. Canadians in this poll including the anti-war ‘types’ have no negative impressions of Canadian integrity in our role. None whatsoever.
I cannot say enough about the kind of damage, which can be caused by erroneous public opinion polls, and news articles, which do little to assist with the development of government foreign policy, particularly as this relates to the present conflict in Afghanistan. Recent criticism of Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s ‘secret’ trip to the front lines is understandable given how bad the press is managing this. As a Canadian pollster it is embarrassing to bear witness to such shameful attempts at manipulation, as this is a critical time in a critical conflict involving our national security.
If the mainstream news cannot do a proper job, than don’t do the job at all.
It is my professional opinion that there is enough here for the Prime Minister to go to the people. He needs to stress the importance of this job and the press needs to show the conflict, and meet with Canadian soldiers, so that the Canadian people can judge for themselves. If steady progress can be made, and be shown to be made, than Canadians will continue to support this mission, and those who don’t appear willing to permit our troops the opportunity to do their best to make Afghanistan a better place for the people living there, and in particular the women and children.
Glen P. Robbins
(604) 942-3757
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