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France

Where are France’s National Front voters?

© AFP

Text by Thomas HUBERT

Latest update : 2013-08-07

A new geographical survey of supporters of the far-right party led by Marine Le Pen shows its electorate is located in two key regions in northern and south-eastern France, and that National Front voters do not always agree on key political issues.

Two blocks of voters with somewhat diverging views in southern and northern France make up most of the support for the National Front (FN), according a study of the far-right political party published by the newspaper Le Monde on Wednesday.

The polling firm IFOP surveyed 6,000 individuals who voted for the party founded by Jean-Marie Le Pen and now led by his daughter Marine. Its analysis shows FN’s electorate is concentrated in the Mediterranean South-East, the base of Jean-Marie Le Pen, and along an arc north and east of Paris, where Marine Le Pen was elected. Both hold seats in the European Parliament and in regional councils.

This geographic distribution confirms earlier research by academics such as Joël Gombin of Jules Verne Picardy University, who has described FN’s electorate as “the most geographically contrasted” of French political parties with strongholds rooted in “the urban France of the industrial revolution” and poor showings in the rural West.

Yet at a conference last month, Joël Gombin said that the party’s reach was slowly and continually shifting – regardless of its leader. “The FN vote is less and less one of urban centres or even of their close suburbs,” he said, adding that it had been extending to “the semi-urban surroundings of big cities”.

Agreement on immigration, but not on taxation

While nearly all FN voters surveyed by IFOP agree that “there are too many immigrants in France” and “one does not feel safe anywhere”, their views diverge on economic issues. Some 60% of Le Pen’s supporters in the South think that “taxes paid by the wealthy are too high”, while only 37% of those in the North agree.

Le Monde quotes IFOP’s analysis that “a true difference in nature emerges between the two electorates”, which may be linked to their class structures. While half of FN voters in northern France are working class, the social mix in the South is more varied, with many self-employed and retired people supporting Le Pen.

Pollsters noted that FN politicians have been tailoring their message to their dual electorate, especially during the controversial debate on gay marriage earlier this year. Three quarters of the party’s supporters opposed it in the South-East, where FN MP Marion Maréchal-Le Pen (a niece of Marine) took part in street protests against the measure. But far-right voters appeared less interested in the issue in the North, where Marine Le Pen steered clear of the debate.

According to Le Monde, the two groups of voters are “different and complement each other, which has so far given FN a chance to address a wide range of voters”.

Another theme uniting them is the opinion that “the unemployed could work if they really wanted to”.

Next year’s municipal elections will tell whether the National Front can rally enough voters from various backgrounds and economic outlooks to widen its electoral base any further.
 

Date created : 2013-08-07

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