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Poll says 80% of French want a return to national service

A French conscript is put through his paces in 1996, the year national service was phased out
A French conscript is put through his paces in 1996, the year national service was phased out Thomas Coex/AFP archives
2 min

Some 80 percent of the French population want a return to compulsory national service in the wake of the Paris terrorist attacks, and see it as a useful tool for giving alienated youngsters “Republican values”.

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An IFOP poll for regional daily Ouest France on Sunday showed that 81 percent of men and 79 percent of women supported some kind of service, be it civilian or military, for young men and women.

According to IFOP, the figure is much higher than polls in recent years, which have averaged 60 percent. The polling agency links this spike directly to the national mood following this month’s terrorist attacks.

Those polled who supported the re-introduction of national service agreed that “France needs powerful tools to help promote integration, mix young people of different social backgrounds and levels, and to instil Republican values and national cohesion”.

France phased out compulsory military service, which applied to men only and lasted ten months, in 1996.

Since 1998, all French citizens aged between 17 and 25 have been obliged to report for a “Defence and Citizenship Day”, which is used to introduce young people to the military and identify illiteracy rates.

Not surprisingly, supporters of the conservative UMP party and the far-right National Front are the biggest supporters of a return to some kind of conscription (90 percent and 89 percent respectively), although Socialist Party supporters (71 percent) are also keen to see national service re-introduced.

Even among those aged between 18 and 24 – who would be directly affected – 67 percent believe it would be a good idea.

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