Reputation Survey: War in Afghanistan - Offensive has 'failed to make Britain safer'

Seventy per cent of the public feels the war has not improved security.

OnePoll: the public's view of the war in Afghanistan
OnePoll: the public's view of the war in Afghanistan

The public believes the war in Afghanistan cannot be won, has been poorly communicated and has failed to make the streets of Britain safer, the latest PRWeek/OnePoll survey has revealed.

Seven in ten quizzed on the war believed that the basic premise of successive governments' reasoning behind the intervention - making Britain safer - had failed.

The results come in the wake of a US soldier being accused of killing Afghani villagers and riots in the country after copies of the Koran were burned.

A deeper look at the results reveals that the Government's biggest challenge is persuading the older generations and women of the validity of the mission.

Eighty-four per cent of those aged over 55 - 22 percentage points more than those aged 18-24 - did not believe the war could be won, while only 20 per cent of women believed the situation had been handled competently. This compared with 29 per cent of men answering the question.

There was a difference of 15 percentage points between men and women who said the Government had communicated the reasons behind the war competently.

The Government's messaging has been met with most cynicism in Northern Ireland. Twenty-one per cent believed the main reason for the war was to protect energy supplies.

Forty-five per cent of the general public said Britain's image had been damaged by its presence in Afghanistan.

Survey of 2,000 members of the public conducted by global research agency OnePoll

How I see it

Alison Clarke, CEO UK and Ireland, Grayling

These findings demonstrate that the MoD has successfully shifted public perception around the goal of British military action in Afghanistan. A quarter of those polled believed we originally went in to stop Al-Qaeda. Today, the majority believe the military is there to support the country's transition to self-governance.

But 70 per cent of respondents said action in Afghanistan had not made the streets of Britain safer. This is the crux of the comms challenge for the MoD: translating our boys' action into something tangible, action that sees the streets of Britain made safer. It is a problem faced by most comms teams; how to make their client, and its issues, products or campaigns, real and pressing to target audiences and the general public.

Any administration needs to convince families with loved ones fighting abroad that the risk they carry is worth it. In the context of waning appetite for war, increased scrutiny of military action and the rising voices of soldiers' families, the MoD has a tough comms job on its hands.

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