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Trendspotting: French Presidential Race

by ManfromMiddletown Thu Feb 1st, 2007 at 08:44:54 AM EST

It's been a while since I did my last Pulse of the Nations poll review.  I've decided I want to try something new.  Because many of the polls tracked elections, I recognized that they're a lot more interesting together than apart.  So what I've done is create charts. This is my first effort.

Because the only European election looming on the horizon in a "big" country is in France, I've decided to do my first diary on the French Presidential Election. I'm only using polls run in 2007.  I want to create a running database on series data like this.  


Although Socialist candidate Segolene Royal started the year with a slight advantage in the polls, over the course of the last month UMP candidate Nicolas Sarkozy was able to open a modest gap with Royal only to see this  begin to close as the month ended.  The margin between both candidates has remained well within the margin of error, and the race remains very close.

Among the second tier candidates, far-right candidate Jean-Marie Le Pen of the National Front has seen a steady drop in support from 15% at the start of the month to 10% at the end.  Mainstream right candidate François Bayrou of the UDF appears to be drawing voters from Le Pen, more than doubling his vote share from 6% to 14%.  The rest of the candidates are clustered under 10%.  One oddity is the jump in support for Olivier Besancenot of the Revolutionary Communist League from around 3.5% for most of the month to 7% in a January 23 poll conducted by BVA.

No Presidential candidate is shown capturing a majority  in the April 22 vote, forcing a second runoff vote on May 6 between conservative UMP frontrunner Nicolas Sarkozy and Socialist candidate Segolene Royal.

Mirroring the trends present in the first round, Royal started the month with a 4 point lead, flipping to 4 point deficit at midmonth, and closing to 2 points at the end of the month.  While a runoff election is virtually guaranteed, the margin between the candidates has for the most part remained within the margin of error.  This is a close election, however, Royal appears to be improving her performance as the month draws to a close. I know that Le-Pen's performance is modest compared to earlier elections, however it never ceases to amaze me that a blatant racist can garner the support of such a large percentage of the vote.

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Great work, MfM. This is work I didn't have time to do, tracking the month's polls. What was your source for all the polls? (please link...)

One thing you have to watch out for in French polls is that Le Pen never polls as well as he finally "performs". People are shy of telling pollsters they intend to vote for him, probably. There is no reason to think he has lost any of his solid base, which is around 16-17%.

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Thu Feb 1st, 2007 at 09:20:56 AM EST
I use Angus Reid for polls.   Excellent database.

I can see your point about Le-Pen, this tendency to lie to the pollster is pretty common.  In the US, minority candidates often get a boost in the polls, because no one wants to say they won't vote for a black man.

And I'll give my consent to any government that does not deny a man a living wage-Billy Bragg

by ManfromMiddletown (manfrommiddletown at lycos dot com) on Thu Feb 1st, 2007 at 09:38:15 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Why does Le Pen's percentage shock you?  10% of the world would eat paint if you spent enough money on advertisements.  I suspect a Le Pen-type candidate would gain similar support everywhere if we all had election systems like that of France.

Be nice to America. Or we'll bring democracy to your country.
by Drew J Jones (pedobear@pennstatefootball.com) on Thu Feb 1st, 2007 at 10:42:16 AM EST
Extremist parties get about 15% of the vote more or less everywhere in Europe.

"It's the statue, man, The Statue."
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Thu Feb 1st, 2007 at 10:43:48 AM EST
[ Parent ]
They would get the same in America if we had a system that allowed for that sort of thing.  As it is, we, of course, only have the Dems and Reps, so each will, in general, absorb the extremists on its side of the aisle.  The Klan will vote Republican.  The ELF will vote Democratic.

Be nice to America. Or we'll bring democracy to your country.
by Drew J Jones (pedobear@pennstatefootball.com) on Thu Feb 1st, 2007 at 10:46:16 AM EST
[ Parent ]
No. The Klan will vote Republican, ELF will stay home or vote for a third candidate. And, as things stand presently, if we draw the line to extremism at some common measure of anti-democratism and/or support for organised violence against political opponents, the right-extremists are a much larger group than left-extremists. For that reason, any equation of left/right-extremists only serves the Right's pursuit to move the center further right, defining ever milder leftists extremists (and ever viler right-wingers just hard- or centre-right).

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Thu Feb 1st, 2007 at 12:00:50 PM EST
[ Parent ]
In teh Basque country there are no right extremists, and the 15 percent are "patriotic left". Among the youth, there are no skin-head, but "left" Basque independentist street fighters. The ceailing of electoral support for ETA's political arm has been 15% in 1998/9

"It's the statue, man, The Statue."
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Thu Feb 1st, 2007 at 05:13:03 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I disagree.

This is the French Presidential election, not a parliamentary election.  Which means it's not PR, just a runoff if there is no majority.

The closest parallel I can think of is the Louisiana elections system, where former Klansman David Duke ran as a Republican, leading to the Republican party endorsing the Democratic candidate as a conseqence.  

And I'll give my consent to any government that does not deny a man a living wage-Billy Bragg

by ManfromMiddletown (manfrommiddletown at lycos dot com) on Thu Feb 1st, 2007 at 07:50:25 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The difference that matters is just that runoff: what is invisible in the single-round US elections is visible in the French, what's more, it forces different tactical play. Also, the other elections sustain a multi-party landscape from which the Presidential candidates come.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Fri Feb 2nd, 2007 at 02:51:33 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I was surprised to learn in an earlier comment thread that France uses FPTP and that the multi-party landscape is supported mostly by agreements at the party level where the PS negotiates not to contest a few seats where some other left party has a chance or a prominent candidate.

"It's the statue, man, The Statue."
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Mon Feb 12th, 2007 at 03:51:48 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Mainstream right candidate François Bayrou of the UDF appears to be drawing voters from Le Pen

Hm.

  1. Are your figures for likely voters or all voting-age people? If the former, you should more consider voter activity.

  2. It looks more likely to me that Bayrou (whom you have on the table with a typo, BTW) got almost all of his votes from Sarko, and Le Pen lost to Sarko.


*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Thu Feb 1st, 2007 at 12:05:28 PM EST
One of the latest polls gives Bayrou 14%, which is interesting (and fits with what I am hearing around me, and those guys are "average" French). If Bayrou makes a 16%, he breaks the "presidentiable wall" and the race becomes very open. A snowball effect is then expected.

It's possible that Bayrou is drawing people from le Pen but in that case only the fringe that votes LePen, not because they share his ideas but because they use him as a warning signal against the establishment.

I think that his votes come from different sources, since 14% is much bigger than the UDF base :

  • "white" voters and others that are not satisfied by the duo Sarko-Sego but don't want to vote for the extremes. This is a potentially very big group.

  • the social-democratic left which is appalled by Sego's repeated gaffes and knows that Bayrou would include it in a new government (this group has increased these last weeks).

  • a part of the "leftist" Sarko electorate which is not pleased by his use of state resources to sustain his campaign and is afraid that an elected Sarko would put France in constant social conflict.

In a way Bayrou is a French Carter. And the French are very tired of the "nixonian" Chirac era, even if Chirac never fell to the Nixon's lows, or at least never got caught.
by oldfrog on Thu Feb 1st, 2007 at 04:12:00 PM EST
[ Parent ]
the social-democratic left which is appalled by Sego's repeated gaffes and knows that Bayrou would include it in a new government (this group has increased these last weeks).

I wonder what kind of insurances it has that Bayrou would have its government open to the left. UDF is still a right-wing party, voting with the UMP most of the times. many UDF deputies are indeed announcing their support for Sarko... And a Royal defeat would kill the PS in the parliamentary elections. Who would end up PM ?

Un roi sans divertissement est un homme plein de misères

by linca (antonin POINT lucas AROBASE gmail.com) on Fri Feb 2nd, 2007 at 05:54:18 AM EST
[ Parent ]
well I have no "insurances" but I can assess the following :

  • Bayrou wants a government of national union, it's one of the core points in his campaign and I think he is sincere. You cannot have national union if you don't include the left.

  • the current UDF is hardly a "right-wing" party. Some UDF members have jumped to the UMP like Robien, Douste-Blazy and Borloo, but they hardly can be considered as right-wingers, specially Borloo. The rest of the UDF has consequently been voting AGAINST the UMP in core issues, the CPE and the budget to name some. Besides it depends what you mean with "right-wing". The French UMP is on many aspects to the left of centrist US Democrats.

  • a Royal defeat would not "kill the PS". It is often the case that the French tend to vote for the opposition in the legislatives to counter the Presidential power. The UDF would have to create a majority and the PS would be a more natural ally than a defeated Sarko (in my opinion Bayrou can only become president if the goes against Sarko in the second run).

  • in the current system the President chooses the government, not the result of the parliamentary vote. The later one gives only a more or less big majority to support the chosen government. So Bayrou can choose to put leading socialists (of the social-democratic type) to key governmental posts. Figures like Strauss-Kahn, Kouchner are possible. Even Rocard (with his age as a handicap). Borloo is probably available too from the "right" and is consensual for the majority of the French.

  • If Segolène keep losing in February,following the actual trend (a big scandal is sailing up, check the Figaro), there is a risk of a split among the socialists, which means they will lose. Their only option is then to back Bayrou and negotiate govermental influence. I bet that Strauss-Kahn is first in line.  

  • I think that LePen is out of the game this time, despite all rumors. It's not the same situation than in 2002.
by oldfrog on Fri Feb 2nd, 2007 at 09:31:00 PM EST
[ Parent ]
A late reply about a couple of your points :

Douste-Blazy and Borloo are no longer UDF members, as they have joined the UMP. But other UDF members are still clearly right-wing, such as Andre Santini.

Bayrou asked his party deputies to vote against the UMP on some core issues, but they often balked at it. And most of the time, the UDF votes with the government.

The general perception is that parliament elections follow the result of the présidential one. See 2002 ; since Chirac had won, the parliament sent to the Palais Bourbon was right-wing, with barely a campaign made.
And even with Bayrou president, the UDF probably can't single-handedly get a majority in the assembly as it has too few incumbents.

Since the parliament in effect has to approve a government's formation, an UDF-UMP majority would end up as a strictly right-wing government.

Un roi sans divertissement est un homme plein de misères

by linca (antonin POINT lucas AROBASE gmail.com) on Tue Feb 6th, 2007 at 03:39:32 AM EST
[ Parent ]
"Because the only European election looming on the horizon in a "big" country is in France"

I would not be surprised to have a UK general election this year. An early election, soon after Brown takes over and before his honeymoon ends, may be Labour's only hope of another majority government.

However looking at French politics, it looks very likely that Royal and Sarkozy will go to a second ballot. No other candidate seems likely to overhaul either of them, so we should not get a repeat of the badly splintered left vote letting Le Pen into the runoff.

Of course, what do I know about French politics?

by Gary J on Thu Feb 1st, 2007 at 02:49:40 PM EST
I thought about the UK, but that's not planned.  Polling does show that a majority favors a snap election if Blair resigns.  And Cameron and the Tories lead in that election.

As far as France, I'll admit French politics are a huge mystery to me.  The comment about Bayrou and the UDF drawing from Le-Pen was based on the observation that as Bayrou rose Le-Pen fell.  Oldfrog hs some good comments on this above.

And I'll give my consent to any government that does not deny a man a living wage-Billy Bragg

by ManfromMiddletown (manfrommiddletown at lycos dot com) on Thu Feb 1st, 2007 at 07:30:03 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Great post! I wonder why it wasn't front-paged :).
by Laurent GUERBY on Fri Feb 2nd, 2007 at 04:52:53 PM EST


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