Public 'support troops but not wars'
18 September 2012
The majority of the British public support troops fighting overseas and returning veterans but do not approve of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, a survey has found
More than 90 per cent of those questioned in the annual British Social Attitudes survey expressed support for veterans of both Iraq and Afghanistan, but just 29 per cent said the UK was right to send troops to Afghanistan. Around 48 per cent actively disapproved of the war, compared to 58 per cent who disapproved of the war in Iraq.
The report said that people had "little difficulty in separating the politics of military deployments from attitudes towards the service men and women who take part in them".
As a result of the findings, it was predicted that troops returning from Afghanistan post-withdrawal in 2014 would be "warmly welcomed home by most of the public, no matter what people think of the mission they have been asked to fulfil".
As well as the newly added questions on support for troops and military operations overseas, the survey also recorded attitudes to defence spending, data which it has been collecting since 1983.
Of those surveyed, only 5 per cent listed defence as their top spending priority for government. The figure peaked at 6 per cent in 2009's survey as a result of public debate about inadequate military equipment in Afghanistan. In the first survey in 1983, just a year after the Falklands War, the call for defence to top government spending priorities was registered by just 3 per cent of survey respondents.
"While the majority of the British public hold the armed forces in high esteem, only a small number regard defence as a top priority for additional public spending," the report said.
"It may be that the public supports the armed forces but is unwilling to provide additional spending at the expense of other government sectors if current spend levels are widely considered to be sufficient and resourcing problems seen to be due to poor financial organisation and planning."
More data can be found at the British Social Attitudes survey website