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The BPCE - Viavoice barometer survey of projects planned by the French - March 2012

An electoral campaign in that is out of touch with French expectations (employment, purchasing power)

The current campaign is widely considered "atypical", "strange" or "unique". Among the factors explaining this uniqueness is the main lesson of the latest edition of the Barometer survey of projects: the French perceive the issues taking priority in this campaign as being significantly out of touch with the issues that actually concern them (employment, purchasing power).

Purchasing power and employment versus public debt, security and immigration

The major expectations of the French are clear: "employment" is the top issue that "presidential candidates should give precedence to" (52%), followed by "purchasing power" (42%). Much lower scores were given to "public health" (27%), "public debt and deficit" (24%), "security" (23%) and "education" (22%). Immigration ranked only ninth at 11%.

In contrast, the presidential campaign does not reflect this ranking of priorities. The most discussed issues, in the eyes of respondents, are "public debt and deficit" (32%), "security" (32%), "employment" (29%) and "immigration" (25%). "Purchasing power" garnered 24%, or fifth place among respondents. This gap between the expected and perceived issues is particularly interesting in light of the Mohamed Merah "affair": interviews for this survey took place on Thursday 22 and Friday, March 23, the day of and the day after Merah’s death.

In other words, emphasis on the issues of security and immigration during this campaign are clearly over-represented in relation to French voters' priorities and expectations: the Merah case, as tragic and significant as it is, has not eclipsed voters' economic and social concerns.

As such, this event is not comparable to the "Papy Voise affair" during the 2002 campaign, which spread or increased a feeling of insecurity that had been a much more crucial issue for French voters at the time.

Purchasing power: though the issue is considered an election priority, worries are less pronounced

Though the issue of purchasing power remains a top election priority (along with employment), French concerns are less acute on this subject today: 37% of French believe that their "purchasing power" will "decrease" in the months ahead, the lowest score since the beginning of this survey in October 2010. Last month, the rate of pessimism was 42%, and 54% the previous month—a drop of 17 points in two months.

In fact, this decline is explained less by concerns about candidates' proposals than by a reduction in sectorial concerns:

  • Concerns over "gas prices", though still high, have stabilized at 40% (-3);
  • Concerns over "electricity" were down significantly (27%, down eight points compared to data recorded two months ago), at the end of winter;
  • Concerns about "taxes" are relatively low, for their part (20%).

Consequently, the share of French people who are considering reducing their spending decreased: only 26% of the French plan to "spend less than in recent months" on food or clothing. This score is eight points lower than last month's results, and 14 points lower compared to two months ago.

So, with three weeks to go until of the first round of presidential voting, French public opinion is dominated by a pincer effect with regard to purchasing power:

  • Personal concerns are less acute, but purchasing power remains the top expectation of candidates;
  • Despite these expectations, the election campaigns appear fairly polarized around other issues.