The National Front: A family affair?

Like the party's leadership, National Front votes appear to be passed on down the generations. [Blandine Le Cain/Flickr]

French newspaper Libération has teamed up with the Jean Jaurès foundation, a think tank, and the communications agency Netscouade to launch an observatory of the National Front, to look into the reasons behind the party’s recent growth and success. EURACTIV France reports.

It was something of a surprise in 2002 when Jean-Marie Le Pen, the father of the current president of the French National Front (NF), made it to the second round of the presidential election, where he was roundly beaten by Jacques Chirac.

In France’s 2017 presidential election, Marine Le Pen looks likely to perform a similar feat, riding the wave of populism that is sweeping Europe and the United States. But unlike her father, today’s NF leader has a real chance of securing the presidency.

With all the polls giving her between 26% and 30% in the first round of the election, it is more than likely that Le Pen will survive to fight the second round. According to the researchers from the centre-left Jean-Jaurès Foundation, this progress is down to the generational effect: young people that vote for the NF today are often the children of Jean-Marie Le Pen’s supporters.

The observatory, called “Eye on the Front”, this week (7 September) published an analysis of the far-right party’s voter profiles.

The aim of the operation is to reach the heart of the NF’s future support base with articles, research, data journalism and editorials. “It is about bringing research and news together. Because the political role of the NF is very important. It will play a pivotal role in the campaign. The NF’s ideas go beyond its electoral strength,” Laurent Joffrin, the director of Libération, said at a Jean-Jaurès Foundation conference on NF voters.

Study on the NFY

While the NF’s voter base is broadly understood – coming largely from working class areas in the north, the south and the west of the country – a deeper look at the data available has revealed some valuable new information.

Polling company IFOP conducted a study of around 200 activist members of the party’s youth wing, the NFY. Firstly, the people questioned said they came mainly from politically aware families (70%) which predominantly voted National Front (80%).

As Jérôme Fourquet, the director of IFOP’s public opinion department, said at the Jean Jaurès Foundation conference, “a young person’s decision to vote for the NF should not be seen as an act of rebellion, but one of continuity with their parents’ political choices”.

Secondly, men are more likely to identify with the values of the NF than women. “For young women to be interested, they have to be more immersed in the Frontist world,” said Fourquet.

As with NF voters in general, working class young people are more likely to vote NF, even if Le Pen’s party is now recruiting members from all socio-economic backgrounds. Two-thirds of NFY members are Catholics, whether practicing or not, and there are very few members from other religions (Protestants, Jews, Muslims).

Finally, the National Front’s youth members rely mainly on the internet for their information. This is consistent throughout the party, whose members tend to distrust traditional media like television or the press. “They have a militant approach to bypassing individual thought,” said Fourquet.

National Front’s voting errors raise questions of competence

MEPs from France’s National Front have corrected 988 voting errors since July 2014, seven times more than members of the French Socialists or the British Conservatives. EURACTIV France reports.

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