August 23, 2009 / 8:58 AM / 10 years ago

Poll shows most Britons oppose war in Afghanistan

British soldiers from B Company, 2 Mercian, board a Chinook helicopter on an operation in Malgir, Helmand province, July 27, 2009. REUTERS/Omar Sobhani/Files

LONDON (Reuters) - More than two-thirds of people in Britain think troops should not be fighting in Afghanistan, and only 1.5 percent of those polled think Prime Minister Gordon Brown is handling the war “very well”.

The poll of 2,000 adults for the Mail on Sunday, conducted on the Internet on August 20 and 21, showed that three-quarters of those questioned did not think fighting in Afghanistan was making British people safer from terrorism.

That appeared to undermine a central plank of the government’s argument for the war, with Brown and senior ministers repeating in the past few weeks that the conflict is part of efforts to keep Britain’s streets safer from attack.

Britain has about 9,000 troops deployed in Afghanistan, most of them fighting in the south, where the Taliban remain strong. July and August have been two of the deadliest months for Britain since the conflict began in 2001, with more than three dozen troops killed in the past seven weeks.

The total death toll now stands at 206, nearly 30 more than were killed in the five years Britain was engaged in Iraq.

Asked if British troops should be fighting a war in Afghanistan, only 31 percent said yes, while 69 percent said no.

Asked how Brown was handling the war, 1.5 percent said “very well” and 26 percent said “fairly well”. More worryingly for the government, which has struggled to justify the conflict, 40 percent said “fairly badly” and 32 percent said “very badly”.

The poll, conducted by BPIX, also showed that if an election were held today, the opposition Conservatives would win 36 percent of the vote, with the governing Labour party on 24 percent and the Liberal Democrats on 17 percent.

The next parliamentary election must be held by June next year, with Labour, in power for more than 12 years, widely expected to lose to the Conservatives.

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