In the upcoming French presidential election, the majority of polls predict Marine Le Pen will win the first round and meet defeat in the second round. Others suggest, however, that she still has a fighting chance, particularly after traditional polls failed to predict Brexit and Trump’s victory. Why did the polls miss the mark in the first place? Some theorize that recent polling inaccuracies were due in part to respondents’ reluctance to admit their true intentions via telephone and in-person surveys, for fear of judgement. More pointedly, anonymous surveys conducted online or via mobile phones, were often more accurate in their predictions than others. So, we examined data from our Voter Insights Product (collected anonymously through mobile phones) to offer another perspective on Le Pen’s chances in the French presidential race.
Our survey found FN to have the most support out of any other party. 18% of respondents plan to vote for FN compared to 13% for LR and 5% for EM. But because the 2 round voting system is decided by a vote between two final candidates, even if Le Pen wins the first round, she might not have enough support to win round two.
Loyalty among FN voters is also much higher than for other parties. 63% of FN voters are very certain they will vote for FN, compared to 38% of LR voters and just 14% of EM voters. In addition to not changing their minds at the last minute, a loyal voter base is also more likely to mobilize to vote than people who are less certain about their choice.
We asked French voters to rank the qualities of the candidate they would elect. They said they would vote for someone who 1) “can bring needed change” (34%), 2) “speaks his / her mind” (20%), and 3) “cares about people like me” (17%). Fillon, an establishment figure who was the Prime Minister under Sarkozy from 2007 to 2012, doesn’t fit the bill. Only 7% of french voters said they wanted someone with “the right experience”. Macron, however, might better embody these qualities, as he is a relatively fresh face in politics.
Le Pen has promised to hold an EU referendum if she takes office, giving citizens the chance to opt out of the EU. This campaign promise could motivate a lot of voters to join her. Our survey shows that France has an even lower opinion of the EU than the UK, who already voted to leave: 28% of French have a negative view of the EU compared to 25% of British.
5. More Jobs. Less Immigration
When asked what issues are most important for their voting decision, French voters ranked having more jobs, less immigration, and higher wages as the top 3. Furthermore, 33% of French consider ‘less immigration’ as an important issue when deciding whom to vote for, second only to Italy (36%). Le Pen’s presidential platform is strongly anti-immigration. Check out our earlier post, ‘Right wing populism and the European worldview divide’, for a breakdown of protectionism in European parties.
The conclusion? Le Pen’s strong base of support, and her ability to speak directly to the issues they care about gives her a serious edge. However, it’s unclear if this will be enough to secure a win. If you were interested in this post, check out our Voter Insights initiative, an upcoming tool for political and electoral analysis. We look at demographics, voting intentions voting issues, loyalty, and other dimensions to get a clearer picture of ongoing political events in Europe.
The results presented are based on a census-representative survey of 11.282 people across the EU and 1.052 in the US conducted in December 2016 by Dalia Research. The sample size in France was 1.473.