Afghan war is unwinnable and we should not be there, say voters

The vast majority of voters are hostile to the war in Afghanistan and believe the political parties are failing to give voice to their opposition, a new poll has discovered ahead of the televised leaders' debate on foreign affairs tomorrow.

The ComRes survey for The Independent and ITV News finds that nearly three-quarters of electors view the conflict as "unwinnable" and more than half say they do not understand why British troops are still in Afghanistan.

Today's poll also suggests Tory support is recovering after Nick Clegg's strong performance in the first debate last week, with Labour the bigger victim of the Liberal Democrat surge.

The Conservatives are on 35 per cent (up three points since the previous day), nine points ahead of both the Liberal Democrats on 26 per cent (down two) and Labour on 26 per cent (down two). The figures would lead to a hung Parliament, with the Tories comfortably the biggest party.

High levels of voter dissatisfaction with Britain's eight-year military involvement in Afghanistan were uncovered by the survey. According to ComRes, 72 per cent believe the war, which has so far cost more than 280 British lives, is "unwinnable", with just 19 per cent taking the opposite view.

More than half (53 per cent) say they "don't really understand why Britain is still in Afghanistan", with 42 per cent disagreeing. A gap between the sexes emerged, with 60 per cent of women but 47 per cent of men saying they did not understand Britain's presence in Afghanistan. A sense that the issue has so far been avoided in the election campaign emerged, with 70 per cent saying they believed the main parties did not offer them "any real choice of policies" on Afghanistan.

The war is bound to be a key theme of tomorrow's televised debate between Gordon Brown, David Cameron and Nick Clegg as it will mainly focus on international affairs. While the Tories have been fiercely critical of the equipment supplied to UK forces in Afghanistan, they support the operation as strongly as Labour. Although Mr Clegg has urged a rethink of military tactics, the Liberal Democrats describe themselves as "critical supporters" of the campaign.

Separately, the party's stance on Britain's nuclear deterrent appeared to be supported by a group of generals writing in The Times, who said the next government should consider scrapping Trident. Mr Clegg is the only leader of the three main parties calling for alternatives to a direct replacement.

Nearly two-thirds (65 per cent) of people surveyed said the war would not have much influence over their vote. Thirty-one per cent – including a higher proportion of young voters – said it could have a bearing on their vote.

Tory chiefs will be heartened by signs their support appears to be recovering from the "Clegg effect". Applied across the country on a uniform swing, their nine-point lead over both their main rivals would give Mr Cameron 299 seats, with Labour on 233 and the Liberal Democrats on 86.

Although the Tories would still be 27 seats short of an overall majority, it would be Mr Cameron who received the invitation from Buckingham Palace to form the next government.

The Conservatives will be hoping that the ComRes poll is evidence that their new "vote orange, get Brown" strategy is bearing fruit. Mr Cameron yesterday reiterated his claim that only a Tory victory on 6 May would provide the "strong and decisive leadership" that Britain needed.

Warning of the dangers of a hung Parliament, he said: "Any other outcome, any other vote, could lead to a... sort of haggling amongst politicians – and we won't get done what so badly needs to be done in our country."

But Mr Clegg claimed the era of two-party politics in Britain had been ended by the emergence of the Liberal Democrats as a major force in recent years. He told the Foreign Press Association in London: "We are never going to turn the clock back as Gordon Brown and David Cameron want to do, to that cosy little stitch-up between the two parties where they think only they can speak on behalf of the nation. That world is gone. "

ComRes telephoned 1,012 GB adults between 18th and 19th April 2010. Data were weighted to be demographically representative of all GB adults. Data were also weighted by past vote recall. ComRes is a member of the British Polling Council and abides by its rules

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
  • Get to the point
2015 General Election
May2015

Poll of Polls

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Photographer / Floorplanner / Domestic Energy Assessor

£16000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Photographer/ Floor planner /...

Ashdown Group: Front-End Developer - Surrey - £40,000

£30000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Front-End Developer - Guildford/Craw...

Recruitment Genius: Customer Service Assistant

£13500 - £15000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Customer Service Assistant is...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive - OTE £35,000

£16000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An ambitious and motivated Sale...

Day In a Page

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

How a costume drama became a Sunday night staple
Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers as he pushes Tories on housing

Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers

Labour leader pushes Tories on housing
Aviation history is littered with grand failures - from the the Bristol Brabazon to Concorde - but what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?

Aviation history is littered with grand failures

But what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?
Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of Soviet-style 'iron curtains' right across Europe

Fortress Europe?

Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of 'iron curtains'
Never mind what you're wearing, it's what you're reclining on

Never mind what you're wearing

It's what you're reclining on that matters
General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence