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The vote of seniors, arbiter of the duel Emmanuel Macron

In English-speaking countries, the vote of older voters has allowed right-wing populists to rise to the top of the political scene. But in France, a different dynamic seems to be taking shape: Emmanuel Macron, qualified in the second round of the presidential election against Marine Le Pen, beat her by more than four points precisely based on the vote of the over 60s.

If he prances in the lead with 27.8% of the votes in the first round of the ballot, Emmanuel Macron owes it mainly to seniors. According to an Ipsos poll, Marine Le Pen obtained her best scores in the first round in the 35-49 and 50-59 age groups, while Jean-Luc Mélenchon won in the 18 -24 years old and 25-34 years old. Shocking results for many English-speaking observers who are surprised to see the far-right candidate come second and supplant Emmanuel Macron among the youngest age groups.

One week before the second round, France 24 questioned Mathieu Gallard, account manager at Ipsos, on how this demographic aspect could affect the outcome of the ballot, expected to be much tighter than the duel between Emmanuel Macron and Marine Le Pen in 2017 (66.1% against 33.9%).

According to Mathieu Gallard, the outgoing president’s strong performance among retirees will only increase in the second round, giving him a good chance of overtaking Marine Le Pen in the field of young voters. He could, on the other hand, have more difficulty in establishing a solid lead among voters aged 35 to 59.

France 24: How to explain Marine Le Pen’s popularity among middle-aged voters and, to a large extent, younger voters ?

Matthew Gallard: The question of purchasing power is extremely important for French voters, and it is by far the most important factor that respondents gave us to explain their vote: 58% of French people answered that it was the most important , followed by immigration with 27%. Then come the health system and the environment, both at 26%.

We can therefore see that the election was very polarized on this issue of purchasing power. A subject that Marine Le Pen has placed at the heart of her campaign, unlike the previous one in 2017 where the predominant message at that time was more about issues relating to immigration and security.

Voters between the ages of 35 and 60 are more worried about purchasing power. Among this slice of the French electorate, around 65-70% said this issue was the main motivating factor for their choice at the polls. This is explained, quite simply, by the fact that these people are active in the labor market – they are working or looking for a job. They feel a lot of difficulties, especially in the face of the sharp increase in fuel prices. This has a huge impact on their budget, because of course in many cases people have to drive to work – and many French people have to travel very long distances.

Overall, those under 60 are more concerned about purchasing power; issues like immigration come next. And their stance on these issues tended to determine whether anti-Macron voters favored Marine Le Pen or Jean-Luc Mélenchon.

Voters’ choice between these two candidates was also correlated with whether or not they had a college degree. Indeed, if you want to know if the average voter chose Marine Le Pen or Jean-Luc Mélenchon, it is good to look at their level of education after the baccalaureate.

When it comes to those under 35, no age group is homogeneous and even among young people, some voters are opposed to immigration and conservative on cultural issues, even though young people in France are generally socially liberal .

However, the main reason attracting young voters to Marine Le Pen is socio-economic. For the most part, these are young people who live far from the big French cities, in regions that are not doing very well economically, and they may have felt closer to the far-right candidate than to Jean-Luc Mélenchon, whose electoral base is much more urban.

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Why Emmanuel Macron was far more popular among voters aged 60 and over – and especially 70 and over – than his two main first-round rivals ?

This comes as no surprise, as the polls we conducted for the second round in 2017 already showed that Emmanuel Macron had obtained 78% of the votes among people aged 70. Already at the time, it was a huge majority.

Admittedly, at the beginning of his mandate, some of his measures were not very well received by retirees. But the various crises that Emmanuel Macron had to face – from the Yellow Vests to the management of Covid-19 and the war in Ukraine – subsequently reinforced his stature in the eyes of this part of the electorate. Also, traditionally, these age brackets generally tend to support the incumbent president.

From a historical point of view, it is therefore not surprising that this is happening again, and in the case of Emmanuel Macron it seems very much linked to the crises he has faced. Older voters generally consider him to have done well, and are much more likely to think so than the average voter.

It is a part of the electorate who does not want to take risks and therefore who thinks: Emmanuel Macron has managed things quite well, let’s keep him for five more years.

How do you think the age dynamics, which we saw in the first round, will translate to the second ?

I think we will see the same trends as five years ago. During the last presidential election, we observed a “U” curve in terms of voting by age. Voters under 35 voted for Emmanuel Macron by 66%, a huge majority. Slightly older people – aged 35 to 49 – also supported him, but only at 57%. As for people aged 70 and over, they voted for Emmanuel Macron at 78%. I wouldn’t be surprised to see a similar curve on April 24th.

Nevertheless, it is now very clear that the result will be much tighter than five years ago, so perhaps the middle age category will be very close between Emmanuel Macron and Marine Le Pen. It would not be surprising if the two candidates found themselves neck and neck in the 35-49 age bracket.

Article adapted from English by Pauline Rouquette. Find the original version here.

France 24-Trans

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