French President Emmanuel Macron has one year left in his first term, and the latest research by Redfield & Wilton Strategies shows that he has much work to do during this time in order to safely secure a second term. In our first voting intention poll in the lead-up to the April 2022 Presidential Election, 18% say they would vote for Rassemblement National’s Marine Le Pen and 16% say they would vote for La République En Marche’s Emmanuel Macron in the first round of voting. 13% say they would vote for left-wing La France Insoumise’s Jean-Luc Mélenchon, while 8% say they would vote for Xavier Bertrand, a right-wing independent candidate.
Other parties, including Parti Socialiste, Europe Écologie Les Verts, and Les Républicains have not yet announced a candidate for the Presidential Election, but 4% to 6% of respondents say they would vote for hypothetical candidates Anne Hidalgo, Yannick Jadot, and Michel Barnier. A further 4% say they would vote for Nicolas Dupont-Aignan from Debout la République.
Notably, 21% of respondents say they don’t know how they would vote, including 20% of those who voted for Macron in the first round of the 2017 Presidential Election and 9% of those who voted for Le Pen. As such, more French voters say they are undecided than say they support any particular candidate.
In France’s electoral system, if no candidate achieves a majority of the first-round vote, the top two candidates compete in a second round of voting two weeks later. If the results of our poll were to be the final results of the first round (excluding those who are undecided), a second round between Marine Le Pen and Emmanuel Macron would take place.
In this scenario––after weighting by first round likelihood to vote and excluding those who say would not vote––our poll finds 43% of respondents say they would vote for Emmanuel Macron and 35% say they would vote for Marine Le Pen in the second round, forecasting a closer second round race than in 2017. A considerable 23% of likely voters say they don’t know how they would vote in such a run-off scenario.
The French public is just as unclear in who they expect to win. When asked which candidate they think is most likely to win the 2022 Election, 26% say Marine Le Pen, 24% say Emmanuel Macron, and 25% say they don’t know. Just 7% each think Xavier Bertrand or Jean-Luc Mélenchon are most likely to win.
Among those who voted for Emmanuel Macron in the second round of the 2017 Election, 41% believe Macron is the most likely to win in 2022. By comparison, 64% of 2017 Marine Le Pen voters think Le Pen is the most likely to win.
A second term is far from guaranteed for Emmanuel Macron, given the significant dissatisfaction the French public feels towards the President: almost half (46%) of respondents disapprove of President Macron’s overall job performance since he became President, while about a quarter (23%) approve, putting his net approval rating at -23%.
Approval of President Macron’s performance is highest among 18-to-24-year-olds, a third (32%) of whom say they approve. Meanwhile, 55% of those aged 55 to 64 and 52% of those aged 65 and over say they disapprove of Emmanuel Macron’s performance as President.
A plurality (39%) of 2017 second-round Emmanuel Macron voters say they approve of his performance, although a considerable 29% disapprove and 30% neither approve nor disapprove. 66% of Marine Le Pen voters disapprove.
Further, the current French Government’s net competency rating stands at -33%, with 47% saying the Government is incompetent and 14% saying it is competent. 32% of respondents say the current Government is neither competent nor incompetent.
The President is also faltering in likeability: almost half (48%) of the French public says Emmanuel Macron is not a likeable figure, whereas 37% think he is a likeable figure.
Beyond his lack of likeability, a significant proportion of the French public appears to not feel personally aligned with President Macron’s views in a variety of policy areas. In fact, when asked to rate their alignment on a scale of 0 (not at all aligned) to 10 (completely aligned), a plurality (ranging from 16% to 25%) of respondents rated their alignment with Emmanuel Macron’s views a 0 out of 10 in all areas.
For 2017 Macron voters, the highest average alignment ratings are on free speech (5.5) and coronavirus restrictions (5.1), indicating that even among his voters there is not a substantial sense of alignment with Emmanuel Macron’s views. Meanwhile, 2017 Le Pen voters on average feel their views are most aligned with Macron’s on the issues of Education (3.3), Taxation (3.1), and Free Speech (3.1), though these are very low ratings.
Macron voters feel least aligned with the President’s views on Immigration (4.3) and Relations with China (4.4), while Le Pen voters feel least aligned regarding his views on Immigration (1.9) and Issues Regarding Race/Ethnicity (2.4). Therefore, immigration seems to be the area in which much of the French public—Macron and Le Pen voters alike—feel unaligned with the current President.
When compared to his three most recent predecessors, a plurality of respondents believe he is neither a better nor worse President of France than François Hollande (44%) and Nicolas Sarkozy (43%). A slight plurality (38%) believe Emmanuel Macron is a worse President than Jacques Chirac, though 35% believe he is neither worse nor better. 17% to 27% of respondents think Macron is a better President than Hollande, Sarkozy, or Chirac.
The substantial frustration the French public appears to feel towards President Macron is likely partially a result of the Government’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic: two-thirds (65%) of respondents say the French Government has not handled the coronavirus crisis well, including 54% of second round Emmanuel Macron voters and 77% of second round Marine Le Pen voters.
In particular, 49% of respondents disapprove of President Macron’s handling of the coronavirus crisis, a figure which has consistently ranged from 41% to 49% since May 2020. A further quarter approve (23%) or neither approve nor disapprove (24%) of Macron’s handling of the crisis.
Those who voted for Emmanuel Macron in the second round of voting in 2017 are divided between disapproving (38%) and approving (36%) of Macron’s handling of the crisis, demonstrating that there is considerable dissatisfaction with the President’s pandemic response even among his own voting base.
Much of this dissatisfaction stems from the conflict-stricken vaccine rollout that France has experienced—indeed, a large majority (72%) of respondents say they are not satisfied with France’s vaccination programme so far. 28% say they are satisfied.
The troubled vaccine rollout in France has been blamed on many parties outside of the country, including the European Commission, which is directing the procurement and distribution of vaccines among EU nations, and vaccine suppliers like Astra-Zeneca, which has failed to meet its vaccine supply commitments. Others have pointed to the relatively high level of vaccine scepticism among the French public.
However, when asked who is most at blame for France’s slow vaccination rollout, just 2% say the public, 12% say the European Commission, and 17% say vaccine suppliers. Instead, 46% of respondents believe the French Government is most at blame for France’s slow vaccination rollout. A plurality (42%) of 2017 second round Macron voters and a majority (53%) of Le Pen voters also find the French Government to be most at fault.
With one year until the Presidential Election, it currently appears that Emmanuel Macron may have a challenging task before him in gaining the public’s approval and votes. Still, there is plenty of time and space for developments in the French political landscape, and it is unclear how large of an impact the Government’s response to the coronavirus crisis will have on an election taking place in a year. But at the present moment, with almost half of respondents disapproving of President Macron’s overall performance and his handling of the crisis—and a similar proportion finding him not likeable—it is clear that the pandemic has not done him any favours.