Half of Canadians do not support the country's military being deployed to Afghanistan, and 60 per cent oppose extending the mission past its current end date of July 2011, a new poll suggests.
The poll, conducted by research firm EKOS and released Thursday exclusively to the CBC, found 36 per cent of respondents supported the mission, though only 28 per cent would be amenable to prolonging it.
The survey, which also inquired about federal voter intentions, asked two questions on the Afghan deployment: "Do you support or oppose Canadian military participation in Afghanistan?" and "Do you oppose or support Canada extending its mission in Afghanistan?"
Opposition to the mission echoes results from last summer, when an EKOS poll found 54 per cent of respondents didn't want Canadian troops in the central Asian country. Since then, the federal government has been embroiled in questions about whether it knew that many detainees captured by the Canadian Forces were being tortured once handed over to Afghan troops.
The staunchest aversion to the current mission came from respondents who also signalled voter support for the Green Party, the New Democrats and the Bloc Québécois, while Conservative backers were the firmest proponents of the military's presence in Afghanistan.
Regionally, opposition to the mission was most intense in Quebec and Ontario, with support strongest in the Prairies.
As for extending the Canadian military's deployment, more than half of respondents of all political leanings disliked the idea, with even a majority of Tory sympathizers opposing it.
Tories maintain lead
On voter intentions, the national political scene remains frozen, with the Conservatives keeping their slight lead over the Liberals. The Tories had the support of 33.6 per cent of poll respondents, with the Liberals at 27.3 per cent, the NDP at 15.9, the Greens at 11.7 and the Bloc with 9.6.
In Ontario, seen as a key electoral battleground, Prime Minister Stephen Harper's party polled highest at 39.5 per cent support to the Liberals' 31.8 per cent and the NDP's 16 per cent. But the margin of error was wide enough to render the Tory lead over the Liberals statistically insignificant.
The results show no significant changes from the previous EKOS poll, released last week. In that tally, the Conservatives garnered 32.2 per cent support countrywide to the Liberals' 27 per cent and the NDP's 16 per cent.
As in previous weeks, Tory backers tend to be residents of Alberta, men and Canadians older than 65.
The survey also asked whether respondents thought the federal government was moving in the right direction; 46.5 per cent said they didn't think so, a 1.1 per cent tick upward from last week, while 43.2 per cent said they did, up from 41.9 per cent in the previous poll.
The survey of 909 people was conducted by telephone between March 31 and April 6 and is deemed to have a margin of error of plus or minus 3.3 percentage points, 19 times out of 20. Both landline and cellphone users were included.
Because of the Easter holiday, the EKOS poll had an unusually low number of respondents, leading to the larger-than-usual margin of error.