Canadians Agree Afghanistan Mission Has Made a Difference, but Unsure About Lasting Success

Download Release

According to Vice-President Megan Tam “With the Canadian mission in Afghanistan drawing to a close, a majority of Canadians are reserving judgment on whether they would call the mission a success , suggesting they are waiting to see whether there is a lasting legacy from the training Canada has provided. It’s unclear though, at which point Canadians will make that determination, or how they will determine the success of the mission. That being said, the vast majority feel that the Canadian presence in the country has made at least a small difference.”



The majority of Canadians prefer Canada’s role in international conflicts be one of peacekeeping rather than military engagement. Nationally, 74% express this view. The remainder is split between playing a financial role to allies (8%) and providing a military role in these conflicts (7%). Meanwhile, a small number (5%) prefer Canada offer no support at all to these conflicts.

Just over one half (58%) of Canadians recognize that Canada is still involved in a mission in Afghanistan.

For a majority of those surveyed, it is too soon to call the mission a success or a failure. Indeed, two in three hold this view (66%). The remainder is more apt to consider it a failure (17%) versus a success (11%). Success or failure of the mission varies across the following:

  • Ontarians are more likely Atlantic Canadians, residents of Quebec, and British Columbians to feel the mission in Afghanistan has been a success.
  • Men are more likely than women to feel the mission has been a failure.
  • Women are more likely than men to feel it’s too soon to tell whether the mission has been a success.

Harris/Decima and Canadian Press have been asking Canadians about their perceptions of the mission in Afghanistan since 2008. An analysis of the results reveals that in 2014, Canadians have become more reluctant to pass judgment on the success or failure of the mission. In 2011, the Canadian mission’s mandate in Afghanistan shifted from a combat role to a training role and from that point on, the data suggests that Canadians have adopted more of a “wait-and-see” view on rating the level of success of the mission. While Canada’s role had been one involving more active military engagement, our surveys had found a higher proportion of Canadians feeling the mission was a failure than we are seeing in today’s opinion environment. The shift from combat to training appears to have changed the lens and timeline with which Canadians judge the success of the mission.

A majority of Canadians believe the mission in Afghanistan has been worthwhile to some degree. Nationally, 52% think the mission was very (8%) or somewhat (44%) worthwhile. Another, 40% feel the mission has been not that worthwhile (22%) and less than one in five feel it has been not at all worthwhile (18%).

There is a sense that Canada has struck the right balance in choosing the conflicts in which to intervene. Nationally, 61% feel that Canada intervenes the right amount of times. Others are split: 18% feel Canada intervenes too much, while 14% feel Canada does not intervene enough. Opinion has evolved on this question since 2011 when 24% felt Canada intervened too much, 13% not enough and 53% the right amount of time.

  • Those over the age of 45 are more likely than others to feel Canada intervenes too much in international conflicts.
  • Respondents from Manitoba and Saskatchewan are more likely than Atlantic Canadians and British Columbians to say Canada does not intervene enough in these conflicts.

Data was collected using computer assisted telephone interviewing (CATI) via the Harris/Decima teleVox omnibus. Overall, 1,051 completes were collected nationally between February 20 and February 24. 2014. The sample consists of 80% landline and 20% cell phone respondents, with quotas by gender (50/50 split) and by region. The data is weighted in tabulation to replicate actual population distribution by age and gender within region according to the 2011 Census data. This survey is considered accurate to a margin of plus or minus 3.1 per cent, 19 times out of 20.