Emmanuel Macron will win the French presidential election this month. Probably.
Despite the rise of far-right leader Marine Le Pen, in first- and second-round polls Macron is likely to end the curse of France’s 20-year-old incumbents on April 24 and win a second term in office. Elysium.
But the race, frozen for so long, has swung into more uncertain territory in the past 10 days, and Macron himself encouraged fears of a Le Pen victory at a large rally near Paris on Saturday. He suggested a far-right triumph in France would fit into a worrying pattern of “great global disorder” – geopolitical, environmental, health and economic. Such a breakdown in national and international consensus has raised, he said, “the specter, perhaps, of a global armed conflict.”
Exaggeration? Scare tactic? Yes, in part. The Macron camp is a little shaken. He also wants to exploit the tightening of the poll numbers to animate his base of complacent and passive voters.
Anything that wakes up a long, torpid campaign is welcome, but I don’t quite buy the “Le-Pen-could-win” scare.
When the war in Ukraine began six weeks ago, a comfortable victory for Macron seemed certain. He climbed 7 points in the first round of the polls in two weeks.
Last week, a tremor of uncertainty – even panic – ran through the French political establishment. Two opinion polls, from pollsters Elabe and Ifop, put Le Pen within 5 percentage points of Macron in the two-candidate run-off on April 24.
FRANCE PRESIDENTIAL ELECTORAL POLL POLLS
For more survey data from across Europe, visit POLITICS Survey of surveys.
Several other polls still showed a gap of 10 to 14 points in favor of Macron.
No matter. A flurry of stories commented on an upward trajectory for Le Pen. Some, who had written her off, suddenly discovered that she was still a force to be reckoned with.
Predicting an election more than two weeks away is a fool’s game. But here it is anyway. Most signs still point to Macron leading the polls in the first round on Sunday and winning the second round two weeks later.
A Macron run-off against Le Pen was always going to be much closer than it was in 2017, when 66% of voters chose Macron. There will certainly be no landslide this time around, but talk of a Le Pen push is partly based on an illusion.
There was no change of ballot in the first round for the distant fight in recent days; the change was all in the extreme right. Between them, Le Pen and Éric Zemmour have shared 32% support for eight months. Over the past four weeks, Le Pen has risen to 20-22% and Zemmour has fallen to 10% or less.
Likewise, there was no first-round collapse in support for Macron. Rather the opposite. For eight months or more, the president consistently voted 23-24%. After Russia invaded Ukraine, it shot up to 30% in POLITICO’s poll. It is now down to 27-28% – still well ahead of its pre-Ukraine levels and comfortably ahead of Le Pen.
The run-off poll is also more stable than last week’s Ifop and Elabe polls suggest. POLITICO polls analyst Cornelius Hirsch, the man responsible for polling the polls, points out that Macron’s second-round “lead” over Le Pen has averaged eight percentage points for many months.
Immediately after the invasion of Ukraine, Macron’s lead widened. Last week the gap narrowed in all polls and dramatically to just 5 points in these two polls. Elabe and Ifop have since slightly widened Macron’s lead again. Overall, the trend has returned to 56% for Macron against 44% for Le Pen.
There are good arguments why Le Pen could come closer this year. There are also good reasons to believe that she will fail yet again.
Compared to 2017, Le Pen has a more moderate image, partly created by Zemmour, who has outbid migration, race and Islam. Unlike 2017, she has momentum in the polls (although mostly at Zemmour’s expense).
She skillfully exploited the issue of the cost of living. She has a far-right support tank (that of Zemmour) who will mainly be transferred to her in the second round.
Above all, Macron can no longer count on a broad so-called Republican Front – a cross-partisan call, including from the left, to vote against the far right in the second round. Some voters on the radical left have convinced themselves (silly) that Macron is as bad as Le Pen.
By contrast, substantial left-wing abstention, particularly from Jean-Luc Mélenchon’s left-wing hard core supporters, is already factored into the poll showing a narrower run-off gap between Macron and Le Pen this year. . Half of Mélenchon voters will stay home, according to an Ipsos mega-poll for Le Monde last week.
Other leftists will again be transferred to Macron, including 29% Melenchonists, 37% Communists and 65% Greens. So will almost half of the remaining center-right votes – and even some zemmourists.
In Ipsos’ in-depth poll, 50% of respondents said they would never vote for Le Pen. The equivalent figure for Macron is 38.5%. Variable turnout skews these numbers, but it’s hard to win a runoff if half the electorate refuses to vote for you.
There is another important factor in favor of Macron. Le Pen’s support is concentrated in the “low turnout” parts of the electorate: the young, less educated and less well-off. Macron’s vote is concentrated in the sections of the population who vote the most.
While Le Pen was historically good at mobilizing her voters, she has failed to “get her vote out” in every election since April 2017. In every vote during this period, parliamentary, European, municipal and regional, she “highlighted ” polls . Parts of his base have never left home.
To win on April 24, she will have to outperform the polls. This election will be close – scary for some. There is no indication (yet) that Le Pen could then create the greatest shock in modern French political history.
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