The French two-round electoral system typically favors centrists: in the first round, most voters are split among several centrist candidates, leading parties on the extremes of the spectrum to perform quite well. But in the second round (a runoff between the two final candidates), the extreme candidate generally loses against the centrist who can rally greater mainstream support. This is one reason why, despite its growing support, the far right party, Front National (FN), is considered unlikely to win the runoff round.

In this election, however, things are different. The rise of the far right under Marine Le Pen and the far left under Jean-Luc Mélenchon is unprecedented. What’s more, according to our March survey, the far right and far left are actually more similar socioeconomically to each other than they are to the center parties of Fillon and Macron. The far left and right tend to feel more insecure about their jobs, their financial situation, and have lower disposable income. In terms of political issues, these two groups are much more critical of NATO and the EU. 

With the similarities between far right and far left in mind, we asked Mélenchon supporters who they’d support if Mélenchon didn’t make it to the second round. The results taken from our political insights tracker show that in the case of a Fillon vs. Le Pen second round, while the majority would not vote at all, the remaining Mélenchon supporters would rather vote for Le Pen than Fillon. This finding highlights a shift away from the traditional idea that left-right politics fall along a spectrum. Instead it seems that the line is bent by a growing dissatisfaction with the status quo to the point where the extreme ends are now meeting. However, the intersection of the extremes is still quite limited. in the most likely scenario of Macron vs. Le Pen, Mélenchon supporters would much rather vote for Macron.

The results show that Mélenchon supporters are more similar to Macron supporters than Fillon and Le Pen on three main issues: they care more about wealth distribution, less about law and order, and are much more open to immigration. Therefore the left-right spectrum is bent, but not broken: Mélenchon’s far left are most opposite to the center right, not the far right. However, despite their shared socioeconomic conditions with the far right, they are drawn towards Macron’s center by a specific set of political issues.

If you’re interested in these results, you might like our voter insights initiative. To learn more about how to get involved, follow the link or sign up to our newsletter.


Image by Blandine Le Cain