Will Marine Le Pen be able to draw voters of other candidates?


A question many people ask themselves is whether Marine Le Pen will be able to draw voters beyond her own electorate if she makes it to the second round of the French Presidential election (which looks quite likely). In all scenarios put forward in polls, she loses against all other possible candidates. It is interesting to see how things played out in 2002, when her father made it to the second round against Jacques Chirac.

The graph above shows the transfer of votes between the first and the second round of the French presidential election in 2002. To draw this graph, I have taken the total number of votes for each candidate in the first round, and multiplied it by the proportions given in this exit poll by Ipsos. I have used the Sankeymatic to make the graph. The calculated total for Le Pen and Chirac is a bit different from the final outcome, but as a whole it is pretty accurate.

The obvious problem for Le Pen father was that he wasn’t able to draw any significant transfer of votes. He only increased his vote share by less than a million, mainly thanks to Bruno Mégret (another far right candidate estranged from the Front National) and abstentionnists. Chirac, in contrast, drew not only on the totality of his own voters and the near totality of voters of other candidates, but also drew many people who had abstained in the first round.

Things will probably be different this time. Les Républicains under Sarkozy moved significantly to the right on immigration, making Le Pen’s ideas more acceptable. If Fillon doesn’t make it to the second round, we can expect a non-negligible share of his voters to move to Le Pen. Generally, Marine is surely not as radioactive as her father in the electorate as a whole. We can probably see this in the polls. They were considerably off in 2002, as many respondents were probably ashamed of saying they’d vote Le Pen. This shame is surely less present now.

Version française sur Mediapart.


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