The poll found that 27% of those surveyed believed Hollande would “be most able to have influence at the European Union level”, against 65% for Sarkozy.
“Such a difference can be partly explained by Nicolas Sarkozy’s current status, who has already had the opportunity to test his abilities to act at the European level, unlike François Hollande,” said Mark Kubista of the CSA Institute.
Supporters of the far-right Front National leader Marine Le Pen and centrist François Bayrou overwhelmingly considered Sarkozy to be more able to influence Brussels. Those who backed far-left Jean-Luc Mélenchon were almost evenly divided, giving a slight edge to Sarkozy, 45% to 43%.
Socialist voters gave an outright majority in favour of Hollande with 63%.
The poll was done by the CSA Institute and commissioned by EurActiv France and the fact-checking website Vigie2012. The survey was conducted 24-25 April, after the first round of presidential voting, with 1,004 adults questioned by telephone.
Sarkozy gains from EU experience
This difference may be due to the Socialist candidate’s lack of experience in international affairs, which his rivals frequently point to.
It may also be due to Sarkozy’s proactive presidency of the EU in 2008 and his management of the eurozone crisis, during which he has frequently sought to portray himself as the “saviour of the euro” beside German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
The incumbent candidate has based his presidential campaign in part on threats to abrogate certain EU rules if France does not get its way. He has committed to reinstating French border controls and to suspending France’s participation in the Schengen area if he does not succeed in negotiating stricter anti-immigration controls.
These aggressive negotiating tactics in this and other areas, threatening in effect a replay of President Charles de Gaulle’s “empty chair policy” in the 1960s, appear to not lead the French to worry about a loss of influence with France’s EU partners.
The polls results' vary greatly according to level of education. Those with more than two years’ university education were far more likely to believe Hollande would be more influential (52%) than Sarkozy (37%).
A majority of those with no or limited higher qualifications, up to an including vocational diplomas, considered Sarkozy to be more credible (50%) than Hollande (37%).