Will ‘Frexit’ supporters decide the outcome of the French presidential election?

AFP file photo Loic Venance, AFP | A demonstrator holds a placard reading "Frexit you excite me!" during a protest against controversial labour reforms,,on June 28, 2016 in Nantes, western France.

The latest analysis of Vote Compass data by Vox Pop Labs suggests that 49% of French voters support holding a referendum on France’s EU membership. Is "Frexit" likely to sway voters' decisions at the ballot box?


Unemployment, the economy and immigration are three of the four most important issues in the campaign. These policy questions all relate in some form or another to “Frexit”.

First, EU membership implicates the free movement of labour – a problem in the minds of “Frexit” supporters who tend to blame European neighbours for coming into France and taking their jobs.

Second, EU membership is at the very core of the debate as to whether protectionism or free trade best strengthens the French economy.

Finally, “Frexit” is about closing France off to its neighbours; the immigration debate is about closing off France’s borders to immigrants.

Given that “Frexit”-related policies are a top priority of the French electorate, policy positions around France’s relationship with the EU could sway voters as they prepare to go to the ballot box on April 23 and May 7.

>> How do your views line up with those of the candidates? Find out at VOTECOMPASS.FRANCE24.COM <<

How do voters feel about 'Frexit'?

Both Marine Le Pen and Jean-Luc Mélenchon are in favor of holding a referendum on EU membership. Yet consensus on this issue among the members of these candidates’ respective bases differs markedly.

Ninety-one percent of Le Pen’s supporters are in favor of holding a referendum on French membership in the EU. Only 59% of Mélenchon’s supporters feel the same way about this issue.

Le Pen has been campaigning on the basis of limiting immigration and increasing protectionist policies. All of these policy platforms are more or less in line with the spirit of “Frexit”, which seeks to put France before its neighbours.

Some of the members of Mélenchon’s base may overlook his stance on the EU referendum and instead be drawn to him based on his progressive policies of taxing the rich and helping the poor.

Left-leaning Mélenchon supporters who do not back him on international relations and France’s relationship with Europe may support him for ideological reasons regardless of the “Frexit” question. This might, in part, explain why his supporters’ level of approval for holding a referendum on leaving the EU is somewhat lower than Le Pen’s.

Emmanuel Macron and Benoît Hamon are opposed to holding a “Frexit” referendum, as are their supporters (roughly 70% of both Macron and Hamon supporters oppose holding a referendum on EU membership). Meanwhile, François Fillon’s supporters are split on the question of whether France should hold a referendum on leaving the EU.

>> Watch Sylvain Attal’s report (in French) on Vote Compass, to learn how you can be a part of making democracy go viral. <<

What are the similarities between 'Brexit' and 'Frexit' supporters?

The second-most googled question after Brexit was: “What is the EU?” A lack of education and information arguably contributed to the UK popular vote to leave the EU.

Similar factors seem to be at play among “Frexit” supporters. Approximately 44% of people who never follow the news support a referendum on France’s membership in the EU. Furthermore, roughly 55% of French citizens with a university degree oppose holding a referendum on France’s membership in the EU.

The socio-demographic splits that pushed Brexit forward may be starting to form on the “Frexit” issue.

All figures in this article are based on Vox Pop Labs’ analysis of data generated by its flagship Vote Compass application, launched in partnership with FRANCE 24. The data reports have been analyzed by Vox Pop Labs’ Mickael Temporão, Yannick Dufresne & Justin Savoie.


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