Monday, October 6, 2014

Liberals potentially most vulnerable on Iraq mission vote

While MPs debate what kind of role Canada should play in the fight against ISIS, polls suggest a majority of Canadians are supportive of the country joining the United States and its coalition partners in a combat mission against the Islamic militants.

To read the rest of the article looking at what polls are saying about Canadians' views on the mission in the Middle East, visit

In the article, I briefly look at the partisan divide on the issue. I thought it might be worthwhile to explore that a little more deeply here.

The chart above comes from Abacus Data's report, breaking down responses by party support for the question of whether Canadians supported sending military advisers to Iraq.

Conservatives were the most enthusiastic, with 68% strongly or mostly in support of sending the advisers. Just 23% were in opposition.

Liberals and New Democrats saw things roughly equally, with 56% of Liberals and 55% of New Democrats in support. Opposition, at 29% and 31%, respectively, was also virtually identical.

Where opposition was strongest was among supporters of the Bloc Québécois. Just 18% supported sending the advisers, while 65% were in opposition. Greens were split, at 41% for and 34% against.

But what about sending combat aircraft, which the Prime Minister is suggesting Canada do?

We find similar divisions here, though with less agreement among Liberals and New Democrats.

Conservatives were 67% in favour of sending jets, with 25% opposed.

Liberals were also strongly in favour, with 55% in support and 36% in opposition.

A plurality of New Democrats supported sending jets, but not a majority: 49% in favour, with 39% in opposition.

Greens and supporters of the Bloc were against sending jets.

While the order of enthusiasm of the three parties does align with the views of their supporters, both the Liberals and New Democrats seem to be somewhat offside on these issues. The NDP is perhaps less vulnerable, as its supporters were the least likely to view a mission in Iraq favourably. But the Liberals may find themselves offside - their voters were only slightly less favourable to hitting ISIS than Conservatives were.

But what if respondents were given the option between a combat role, an advisory role, or no role at all? Angus Reid Global looked at this.

When given the choice, sending advisers is the preferred option by Conservatives, Liberals, and New Democrats. But again we see the same order of intensity: the Conservatives most favourable to some sort of role, the Liberals in between, and the NDP the least enthusiastic.

Among Conservatives, fully 81% supported a role of some kind, with 55% of them preferring advisers and 45% supportive of military intervention.

Among Liberals, support for a role of some kind totaled 72%, with 58% of them favouring advisers over military intervention.

And among New Democrats, still 63% favoured a role of some kind, with 62% of them preferring military advisers. Again we see the same order of support: Conservatives most, Liberals next, NDP last.

Non-voters, interestingly, were the least supportive of any sort of mission. Perhaps if they'd like to actually have a say in whether these things happen, they should go out and vote.

The New Democrats are following their more pacifist traditions, and their supporters are the most ambivalent, so the NDP is best positioned to be the dove on this issue. But these numbers suggest that the Liberals may have been better off choosing a more moderate position on the mission in Iraq.

Whether or not Justin Trudeau has miscalculated, however, will depend on several factors: the success or failure of the mission, of course, but also whether this is an important issue to voters. The polls did not investigate this question, but we may see some fallout in the voting intentions numbers in the coming weeks.