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ORIGINAL FRENCH ARTICLE: Deux Français sur cinq ont voulu exprimer un vote d’insatisfaction

by Sébastien Crépel

Cantonal Elections: Two French Voters Out of Five Wanted to Signal Their Dissatisfaction

Translated Saturday 2 April 2011, by Gene Zbikowski and reviewed by Gene Zbikowski

A local election and national concerns, low voter turnout and a protest vote – such are the paradoxes of the first round in the cantonal elections, according to a Harris Interactive poll.

What were voter motivations in the first round of the cantonal elections? Answering this question was the objective of a Louis Harris Interactive poll done for Le Parisien newspaper and LCP-Public Sénat television on election day. The poll reveals an election that is composed of paradoxes.

Thus, while a majority of the French (64%) say they voted in relation to local issues, a non-negligible portion went ahead and voted their dissatisfaction with Nicolas Sarkozy’s policies. 38% say they did this (50 to 57% of left-wing voters and National Front voters) as against only 8% who voted to express their support for Sarkozy (28% of UMP voters); while 54% say their vote had “no relationship” with Sarkozy’s policies.

The existence of a distinct protest vote in Sunday’s results is therefore incontestable, motivating two out of five French people, despite the denials coming from the UMP party. Moreover, stressing the weak voter turnout (a little less than 45% of the electorate) to put the significance of the vote into perspective also appears to be a subterfuge because abstention was not the result of voter indifference, but rather the result of disillusionment or anger. Those who did not vote on Sunday thought that the election “will not change their situation much” (34%), or that not voting was a means of expressing their discontent as to “the way things are going in France” (27%) or that it was a means of voicing their opposition to Nicolas Sarkozy (11%).

These paradoxes crop up again in the concerns linked to the vote. In spite of the local dimension of the elections, emphasized above by nearly two out of three French people, the problematics that overdetermined the ballot touch, above all, a chord in the national debate. Thus only 17% of the voters say they voted with the provision of care for the elderly in mind, and 15% with help for young people in mind, matters which are, all the same, the responsibility of the département (home help, allocation to continue living alone, junior high schools, school canteens and transport, nurseries…).

On the other hand, concerns linked to employment (cited by 42% of those polled), to social inequality (32%), to education (32%), to the environment (32%, with 6% of those polled spontaneously citing the accident in Japan) and buying power (27%) are the number one concerns.

All of these are areas in which Nicolas Sarkozy’s failure is patent. The themes of security (26%) and immigration (19%), while they exist, are only second-ranking concerns (in the 6th and 9th places), revealing a certain failure of the UMP party to shift the debate away from social questions.

National Front and right-wing voters remain those who are most sensitive to these issues, with respectively 69% and 39% citing concerns about security and 76% and 29% concerns about immigration.

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