Projecting the second round of the French presidential election

What would vote transfers in the second round of the presidential election look like? In an earlier post, I showed that Jean-Marie Le Pen got very few votes from other parties in the second round of the 2002 election, when he made it to the second round. Voters of all other candidates massively rallied behind Chirac against Le Pen. Will things be different this time around?

The CEVIPOF at Sciences Po Paris and IPSOS have released a poll yesterday (n= 11 601) which asks people who they would vote for in the first and the second round, presenting different scenarios. The report shows the proportion of Fillon voters who would vote for Macron if Fillon doesn’t make it to the second round, the proportion who would vote for Le Pen, and so forth. This could all be presented in a matrix.

I have used this data and polls to project possible voter flows between the first and the second round in the different scenarios. Basically, I have taken the current poll numbers of the candidates and reallocated their share of the vote to the two candidates in the second round based on the report.

Now, this should be considered with a pinch of salt because one has to make a lot of – sometimes quite strong – assumptions. First, I assume that polls are accurate, and the level of support of the different candidates in the first round will be close to the real first round result. Second, I assume that voters of a successful candidate in the first round will stick with them in the second one, and none of them switches or abstains. Third, since people were given the opportunity not to express a preference, I assume that the people without a preference will abstain. This is not realistic and surely overestimates abstention, but the lack of preference surely signifies that there is no likable alternative for these voters. Fourth, and most importantly, these were scenarios presented to voters before they knew who is actually in the final runoff, and preferences may change once the choice before them becomes real. But this gives an overview of how “likable” the different candidates are beyond their own electorate, which is crucial to win a two-round election. Amongst the potential candidates, Macron and Mélenchon seem to have the broadest appeal beyond their own electorate.

I have built a series of Sankey diagrams that present these voter flows in the different scenarios. In brackets, the poll numbers for the different scenarios as given by Ipsos. The numbers in the graph include abstention, so the share of the vote for each candidate is given as a share of the electorate, not of valid votes. One problem is that abstention is not factored in in the first round, but the numbers are only given for people who “are sure they’re going to vote” (people tend to overestimate this). Also, “small” candidates like Philippe Poutou and Nathalie Arthaud are not in the poll, but the vote transfers from these candidates are small anyway.

Scenario 1: Macron (61%) vs. Le Pen (39%)

sankeymatic_2400x2400MacronLe Pen

The biggest addition to the Le Pen vote in a duel Le Pen-Macron would come from Fillon, but an even greater share of the Fillon voters say they would vote for Macron. Macron has the big advantage of drawing from left, right and center.

Scenario 2: Macron (64%) vs. Fillon (36%)

Fillon is a very weak candidate against Macron because he doesn’t draw any votes at all from the left. Mélenchon and Hamon voters loathe him, and the share of Le Pen voters going to him is not big enough.

Scenario 3: Fillon (55%) vs. Le Pen (45%)

Fillon-Le Pen is the tightest race against Le Pen. Fillon would still win, but he is very unpopular among Mélenchon and Hamon voters (a bit less among Macron voters). Because there is no left candidate, this is the race that in theory produces the most abstention (a large share of Hamon and Mélenchon voters don’t express a preference, meaning that for them, Fillon or Le Pen doesn’t make much of a difference). This is quite different from 2002, where Chirac’s more centrist position was less of a repellent for left voters.

Scenario 4: Le Pen (43%) vs. Mélenchon (57%)

Mélenchon-Le Pen is the most polarised race. Mélenchon would win by drawing on his good standing among Macron and Hamon voters, even if he doesn’t get many votes from the right (Fillon). Le Pen, again, could only draw from a transfer of votes from Fillon. It would be too small to beat Mélenchon, however.

Scenario 5: Macron (57%) – Mélenchon (43%)

Macron wins against Mélenchon because he appeals to the right, and could rely on a substantial transfer of votes from Fillon and even Le Pen. There would also be an interesting transfer of votes from Le Pen to Mélenchon, whose radical left position apparently appeals to some of Le Pen’s working class base. Fillon voters wouldn’t transfer much to Mélenchon, preferring to abstain.

Scenario 6: Fillon (42%) – Mélenchon (58%)

Mélenchon is actually quite popular among Macron voters, would draw on almost all Hamon voters, while Fillon only appeals to his own base and some Le Pen voters. As things stand, Mélenchon would beat Fillon even if he is currently polling behind him in the first round.

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.


Who exports where in the European Union?

Source: Eurostat.

Brexit, Populist Right-Wing Parties and the Working Class

I took part in the Fafo conference in Oslo on March 23 and presented some data on the working class and populist right-wing parties. Here’s a video.

The Far Right’s Leftist Mask

Line Rennwald and I have a new piece up at Jacobin on the move to the left of radical right parties on economic issues. We notably discuss the difference between rhetoric and action.

Capture d_écran 2017-03-18 à 00.40.22Capture d_écran 2017-03-17 à 23.47.08Capture d_écran 2017-03-17 à 23.44.52Capture d_écran 2017-03-17 à 23.46.26

European social models from crisis to crisis


Is Sweden really the rape capital of the world?

Plot 1007.pngToday, Nigel Farage said that Malmö in Sweden was the rape capital of Europe, accusing the large influx of refugees for causing an increasing in crime and violence. Donald Trump made a similar confused reference to Sweden in a rally recently. If you look at reported rapes, Sweden has indeed one of the highest rates in the world, after Botswana. But does this mean that women in Sweden are much less safe than elsewhere?

The high rape rates in Sweden can be mostly accounted for by the way the are counted, as this article reported:

In Sweden there has been this ambition explicitly to record every case of sexual violence separately, to make it visible in the statistics. So, for instance, when a woman comes to the police and she says my husband or my fiance raped me almost every day during the last year, the police have to record each of these events, which might be more than 300 events. In many other countries it would just be one record – one victim, one type of crime, one record.”

The thing is, the number of reported rapes has been going up in Sweden – it’s almost trebled in just the last seven years. In 2003, about 2,200 offences were reported by the police, compared to nearly 6,000 in 2010. So something’s going on.

But Klara Selin says the statistics don’t represent a major crime epidemic, rather a shift in attitudes. The public debate about this sort of crime in Sweden over the past two decades has had the effect of raising awareness, she says, and encouraging women to go to the police if they have been attacked.

In the graph above, I have plotted reported rapes per 100’000 inhabitants (data from the United Nations) against the World Economic Forum gender gap index. It is importance to note that reported rapes are not the same thing as actual rapes. Sweden ranks unsurprisingly among the highest in the WEF ranking, also if you look at popular support for gender equality. There is an intriguing positive correlation. It is not very strong, but on average, countries with higher gender equality tend to have higher rates of reported rapes. This would suggest that, in line with the argument made by Klara Selin, women are more likely to report rapes to the police when gender equality is more widespread. In contrast, if you look at the lower left corner, countries such as Algeria, the United Emirates, Lebanon and Japan have both low score on gender equality and low reported rapes. This may suggest that reported rapes may not only be a poor indicator of sexual violence against women, but counterintuitively, higher levels of reported rapes may actually be an indicator of higher gender equality: in countries where gender equality is low, and where sexual violence against women is more likely to be widespread, sexual violence is also more likely to go unreported.