Trust in national and European institutions has hit a record-low in France, according to a recent poll, leading to a feeling of “gloom” among a growing number of citizens, and perhaps even a rise in support for the reinstatement of the death penalty, EurActiv France reports.
“It’s not a confidence but a defiance poll this time,” said Pascal Perrineau, director of SciencesPo University's Centre of French Political Studies (CEVIPOF).
Perrineau was addressing the press as he presented the results of a new survey about French people's confidence in politics, carried out at the end of November among 1,803 citizens.
Since the polls began in 2009, the feeling of exasperation has become more widespread among those surveyed. For the first time, the people surveyed used the word “gloom” to define their current environment.
“There is a form of 'blues' among the opinion," Perrineau analysed. "The society is moping and cannot conceive a happy future”.
Defiance against the EU
Trust in others is also falling, underlining a lack of confidence in society which is symptomatic of a broader phenomenon: only 24% of the French think that others can be trusted. The French are highly sceptical of all those who are supposed to represent them, whether politicians, journalists, analysts or trade unions.
As for the government, it has a trust rating of only 25%, while the president hits only 31%. Not only do people lack trust in the president, François Hollande, 67% of the French claim they are actually “worried” by him, up from 31% in 2011.
The European Union is no exception. While 42% of French citizens said they trusted the EU in 2009, the percentage has fallen falls to 32% today. Only local levels of power, such as municipal and regional councils, enjoy higher levels of confidence. 61% trust their local mayor. And the same reasoning applies for elected politicians. Members of the European Parliament get 27% approval ratings, while national MPs are trusted by 41% of the French.
Protectionism and isolation
“The erosion is severe, that’s certain," Perrineau says. "Can we go lower? Yes, certainly”.
According to the CEVIPOF, this general defiance leads to disorientation, which fuels self-isolation and exclusion of others. On the economic level, an increasing number of French citizens demand protectionist measures and a majority of them think there are too many foreigners in France.
Even the legitimacy of the death penalty is questioned: half of the French citizens would like to be reinstated, 30 years after it was abolished.
French who think that belonging to Europe is a good thing are only 35%, against 47% in 2009.
“This shows the magnitude of the task at hand for the EU election candidates,” Perrineau said.
A strong but fragile opposition
Among politicians, former President Nicolas Sarkozy gets the highest level of trust, with 36%, followed closely by far-right leader Marine Le Pen with 34% and centrist politicians Jean-Louis Borloo and François Bayrou, who respectively get 23% and 21%.
“Be careful, the opposition is strong when it is united," Perrineau said.
However, this is far from being the case. The four opposition politicians follow completely different agendas and cooperation among them is simply out of the question.
Eurosceptic parties around Europe have shown their willingness to act on a European level. The controversial Dutch far-right leader Geert Wilders recently toured Europe in an attempt to forge a new movement of far-right parties ahead of the European elections.
But not many supposed “like-minded” parties were ready to join the initiative, and UKIP, the most vocal Eurosceptic party in the EP, rejected outright the proposition.
Eurosceptic political parties are blossoming in many European countries, but their backgrounds and causes are very different. Analysts have argued that even though the next Parliament could have a much higher number of eurosceptic, even populist MEPs, they have a smaller chance of forming a coherent bloc.
For more background on the upcoming EU elections, read our LinksDossier.
- 25 May: EU Parliament elections in France
Academia and think tanks
- Cevipof: Barometer of French citizens' trust in politics (in French)