With eight weeks to go before the French presidential election, voters seem confused. Half of the electorate has not yet decided which candidate to support. EURACTIV France reports.
François Fillon’s support has crumbled from more than 25% one month ago to 18.5%, according to a survey published by Ipsos Sopra Steria on Thursday (16 February). The same survey showed Marine Le Pen in the lead with 26% and Emmanuel Macron closing the gap with 23%.
Weakened by allegations he falsely employed his wife and other members of his family, Fillon is likely to be eliminated in the first round of the election on 23 April. The right-wing Republican candidate’s support has dropped most dramatically among his own party’s supporters (13 points).
National Front leader Le Pen’s lead is stable, unharmed by her own false employment scandal, while former economy minister Macron has gained two points in the last month, the study commissioned by Cevipof and Le Monde showed.
Surging upwards in the polls since his nomination as the Socialist Party’s candidate, Benoît Hamon has more than doubled his support to 14.5% in the last month, leapfrogging Jean-Luc Mélenchon. The far left candidate has fallen two points to 12%.
But the major surprise of this survey is the rate of indecision. One in two voters questioned said their choice “could still change” before the election’s first round.
‘Butterfly’ voters a worry
Cevipof, the political research centre of Paris’ prestigious Sciences Po University, analysed the behaviour of these ‘butterfly’ voters, who flit from one candidate to another. A closer inspection of the data revealed that Fillon’s decline had largely benefitted not Le Pen but Macron.
Of the voters that have deserted Fillon since January, some have decided not to vote at all, while others now back other candidates. Most of these floating voters have washed up in Macron’s camp (2.5 percentage points), while Le Pen, Hamon and right-wing Gaullist candidate Nicolas Dupont-Aignan have each gained 0.5 percentage points.
Floating voters are likely to be a deciding factor in the election. Just one third of Macron’s voters said their support is unshakable, compared to three quarters for Le Pen.
Fillon the most hated, Macron the most liked
Another insight to take from the survey is the extent to which certain candidates are disliked. 61% of those questioned said they dislike Le Pen, but even more, some 64%, were hostile towards Fillon.
Macron is the least disliked of the presidential candidates. Even so, 43% of voters do not like him.
On the more positive side, one quarter of voters said they liked Macron, ahead of Le Pen (23%) and Hamon (20%). 17% of voters have a positive opinion of Fillon and Mélenchon.