The French public is now just seven months away from either granting Emmanuel Macron a second term as President or choosing a new leader for the nation—two outcomes that seem possible, finds the latest research by Redfield & Wilton Strategies. In our most recent voting intention poll for the April 2022 Presidential Election, 21% say they would vote for Rassemblement National’s Marine Le Pen and 18% say they would vote for La République En Marche’s Emmanuel Macron in the first round of the election, if it were held today. A further 11% would vote for Jean-Luc Mélenchon of La France Insoumise and 7% would vote for Xavier Bertrand of the Divers Droite.
The political parties Europe Écologie Les Verts, Les Républicains, and Parti Socialiste have not yet selected their candidates for the Presidential Election, but 5% would vote for hypothetical Europe Écologie Les Verts candidate Yannick Jadot, 5% would vote for hypothetical Les Républicains candidate Michel Barnier, and 4% would vote for hypothetical Parti Socialiste candidate Anne Hidalgo. 4% also say they would vote for Nicolas Dupont-Aignan from Debout la République.
After weighting by likelihood to vote, 16% of French respondents say they don’t know how they would vote if the Presidential Election were today, including 12% of those who voted for Emmanuel Macron and 6% of those who voted for Marine Le Pen in the first round of voting in 2017. Notably, 2017 Marine Le Pen voters are much more likely to say they would again vote for Le Pen (83%) than 2017 Emmanuel Macron voters are to say they would again vote for Macron (58%).
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. Though other outcomes are of course possible, it appears increasingly likely that the second round of voting will take place with Emmanuel Macron and Marine Le Pen again being the two candidates.
In this scenario, after weighting by likelihood to vote, 37% say they would vote for Emmanuel Macron and 33% say they would vote for Marine Le Pen in the second round. 16% say they would not vote if these were to be the candidates and a further 15% don’t know how they would vote.
Along with giving Emmanuel Macron a slight lead in our second-round voting intention poll, a plurality (28%) of French respondents also think Macron is the most likely to win the 2022 Presidential Election—though a considerable 22% say they don’t know which candidate has the best chance. 19% believe Marine Le Pen is most likely to win the election, while 8% expect Xavier Bertrand and Jean-Luc Mélenchon, respectively, to win.
The proportions of 2017 first-round Emmanuel Macron voters who think Macron will win (63%) and 2017 first-round Marine Le Pen voters who think Le Pen will win (66%) are similar, pointing to substantial confidence on both sides’ parts.
When asked to identify up to three issues that are most likely to determine how they will vote in the Presidential Election, immigration (38%) is the most-selected election issue for the French. Healthcare (37%), policing/crime (37%), and economic growth (36%) closely follow as important election issues, along with the environment (34%) and defence and security (32%).
Importantly, the issues that respondents identify as being most likely to determine how they vote vary substantially between past voters of different political parties. For those who voted for Emmanuel Macron in the first round of the 2017 Presidential Election, economic growth (42%) and the environment (38%) are the most-selected issues, while they are immigration (64%) and policing/crime (49%) for former Marine Le Pen voters. Meanwhile, among 2017 Jean-Luc Mélenchon voters, healthcare (48%) and the environment (48%) figure prominently as issues that will impact voting behaviour.
Although our polling suggests that Emmanuel Macron is likely to make it to the second round of the 2022 Presidential Election—and currently enjoys a slight edge over Marine Le Pen in that second round—the President’s approval rating reveals a French public that is noticeably dissatisfied with him. 43% disapprove and 29% approve of Emmanuel Macron’s overall job performance since becoming President of France, resulting in a net approval rating of -14%. An additional quarter (24%) neither approves nor disapproves of his performance.
The President’s net approval rating has improved slightly since our June 2021 poll and considerably since our April 2021 poll, when Emmanuel Macron received net approval ratings of -18% and -23%, respectively.
Adding to this unfavourable approval rating for Macron, the Government of France elicits a net competency rating of -27%: 18% think the current Government is competent, 45% think it is incompetent, and 30% think it is neither competent nor incompetent. This definitively negative view of the Government’s competency may have been shaped in part by its response to the coronavirus pandemic, of which 44% of French respondents disapprove and 32% approve.
In fact, across all policy areas on which we polled, the French Government receives negative net approval ratings. Evaluations of the Government’s performance on immigration (-34% net approval) and crime/policing (-31%) are particularly negative, as are assessments of its record on housing (-22%), the environment (-17%), the economy (-12%), and foreign policy (-10%). The areas that are closest to reaching a positive net approval rating are the Government’s defence (-2%) and healthcare (-6%) policies.
After over four years as President, Emmanuel Macron clearly has a difficult battle ahead of him as he seeks to convince voters that he should have another five years in the role. With the French public displaying significant levels of disapproval for his overall performance, as well as for his record in policy areas deemed important to voters such as immigration and policing/crime, it seems improbable that Emmanuel Macron will win by the same decisive margin as in 2017. Nevertheless, our voting intention poll suggests that Macron currently may have enough of a lead over opponent Marine Le Pen to secure a second term.