POVERTY AND EDUCATIONAL LEVELS SHAPING THE FRENCH ELECTORAL MAP
PARIS (Reuters) – The regions where Emmanuel Macron achieved his worst results are those where a population is concentrated whose purchasing power is most affected by the increase in inflation, shows an analysis of the results of the first round of presidential elections held by Reuters.
Marine Le Pen’s anti-system discourse finds particular resonance in regions with more non-graduates, where life expectancy is lower and crime rates are higher.
The photo of the first round vote suggests that the outgoing president will have the greatest difficulty convincing himself beyond the urban and educated middle class that makes up his electoral base.
While Emmanuel Macron was ahead of Marine Le Pen on Sunday with 27.8% of the votes cast against 23.2%, the result map shows two deeply divided Frances.
To try to determine the factors that weighed most on the poll’s result, Reuters used an algorithm called “decision tree forest,” which allows it to rank 45 economic and demographic criteria according to their correlation with the results achieved by candidates in each department .
As in the 2017 presidential election, living standards and education played a crucial role in the French vote, while the question of purchasing power dominated the end of the campaign.
Even if the measures taken by the French government, such as freezing electricity prices or lowering the price of petrol at the pump, have limited the increase in inflation compared to other European countries, the regions where the most vulnerable population is concentrated voted more in favour Marine LePen.
On average, 12.7% of residents in the departments that ranked Emmanuel Macron ahead of Marine Le Pen live below the poverty line, while this rate rises to 16% in the departments where the National Assembly candidate came first.
The outgoing president also scored lower in departments where unemployment rates are higher and living standards lower, suggesting the government’s support measures have failed to convince those who would need them most.
While official statistics show that France’s gross disposable income has risen over the five-year tenure, the surge in inflation over the past six months and fears it will accelerate further have many voters feeling the opposite.
Marine Le Pen is the candidate who has focused her campaign most on the issue of purchasing power, abandoning her usual themes of immigration and security, in a media space saturated by her rival Eric Zemmour’s proposals on these issues.
This strategy paid off, despite the mobilization of part of the electorate at the end of the campaign in favor of Jean-Luc Mélenchon, and the RN candidate has shown that she intends to make this issue a hallmark of the second round as well.
The factor that best follows the contours of the Lepenist attunement is life expectancy, often used as a barometer of economic and social well-being.
Women born in 2021 can expect to live, on average, a year longer in the departments where Emmanuel Macron won than in those where Marine Le Pen beat him, according to Reuters calculations.
At the same time, life expectancy for women in the two departments where the national rally candidate achieved her best results – Aisne and Pas-de-Calais – is two years below the national average.
It is no coincidence that Emmanuel Macron left for Hauts-de-France on Monday to try to convince the residents of Denain, Carvin or Lens that he can improve their living conditions during his first campaign trip between rounds.
Other factors that correlate with the vote for Marine Le Pen are the number of violent robberies and the low percentage of university graduates.
For example, almost 30% of residents in Aisne, where the far-right candidate received 39% of the votes cast in the first round, do not qualify, compared to 21% nationally.
The equation for the second round contains additional uncertainties, in particular the behavior of Jean-Luc Mélenchon’s voters, also from the popular classes who mobilized for him, especially in the Paris region.
The rebellious candidate, who also tackled the social issue head-on, got almost 50% of the votes in Seine-Saint-Denis, the poorest department in the country with an immigrant population of over 30%, after a more eco-centric campaign start, which Marine Le Pen is unlikely to do will support, but no longer Emmanuel Macron if he fails to turn the election into something other than a ‘dam’ against the extreme right.
Because the other characteristic of Seine-Saint-Denis – like more generally the departments with a large disadvantaged population – is its record abstention rate, the highest in the country after Corsica.
(Report by Leigh Thomas, French version Tangi Salaün)