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How (un)popular is French President Macron really?

French President Macron’s (LREM-ALDE) popularity seems to be very low, especially according to the narrative of the mainstream media. But how does this narrative hold up against a fact check?

In order to answer the question whether President Macron is popular or not, it seems to be easy to find a simple, unambiguous answer in the approval ratings: 26% approve his work according to the latest BVA opinion poll, 73% are not satisfied with his job. But do French voters really want to replace Macron?

Macron has been in office for 18 months and his popularity has decreased dramatically. In May 2017, just after his win against right-wing politician Marine Le Pen (RN-ENF), 66 percent of voters asked in an Ifop poll approved Macron’s work. Neoliberal style labour market reforms, attempting to give his wife an official role in government similar to the US First Lady, and an increase in taxes on fuel damaged the image of the young French President. On 18 November, Ifop reported the highest disapproval rating for Emmanuel Macron ever recorded so far by the pollster, now standing at a dramatic 73%.

Many political commentators have pointed out that Macron is the most unpopular President in recent French history; after 18 months in office, none of his four predecessors (Mitterrand (PS-S&D), Chirac (UMP-EPP), Sarkozy (UMP-EPP), or Hollande (PS-S&D)) had a lower approval rating than Macron does today.

But, diving deeper into the numbers, the picture changes: it appears French voters are generally dissatisfied with all political leaders in the country.

None of the party leaders are able to significantly outperform President Macron. Only Marine Le Pen’s approval (according to BVA) is higher than President Macron’s, at 27%, just one point ahead (within the margin of error). All other party leaders in France have lower approval ratings than the President.

When voters were asked if they think that another party leader would do a better job than Macron as President, none of the party leaders received a majority answer of ‘yes’. In fact, Le Pen performs the best, but still only 26% think she would do a better job than Macron while 47% say, she would do a worse job. All other party leaders performed worse.

Asked who voters would choose in the first round of a Presidential election, 33-36% say Emmanuel Macron, according to the latest poll conducted on the topic (Ifop, April 2018). This is an increase of 10 points compared to what Macron received in the 2017 Presidential election one year before . He is also more than 10 points ahead of Marine Le Pen, who would receive 23%, therefore, in the same poll.

Many commentators have attempted to make comparisons between Macron and US President Donald Trump. However, as approval ratings for candidates and polling numbers for their parties are often closely correlated, this is a highly questionable comparison. While Donald Trump operates in a simple two-party system, Macron competes for approval in a party system with almost ten different relevant parties. As partisan voters tend to naturally disapprove of other parties as a result of their support for their own, meaning a multi-party system provides a greater challenge for politicians to be popular across the electorate as a whole.

Macron is unpopular, yes, but this unpopularity has multiple dimensions to consider. Macron is operating in a multi-party environment where all national party leaders are extremely unpopular. In fact, Macron still seems to be one of the strongest de facto party leaders in France. Voters prefer him in the position of President over essentially every other national party leader, despite the fact that the vast majority of French voters clearly disapprove of what he is doing as a President.

Tobias Gerhard Schminke is the founder of Europe Elects and is the leader of the Europe Elects team.

1 Comment

if we look at previous approval rating the only president that has come to macron’s approval rating is sarkozy and honestly the french just hate their presidents he actually has a very high approval rating