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Estimating Marine Le Pen’s 2017 presidential vote share
By Jocelyn Evans, Gilles Ivaldi
03 June 2016 | Polls & Forecasts | 1286 words
Less than a year before the 2017 French presidential race, speculation over Marine Le Pen’s likely performance continues. The FN leader is expected to thrive in the presidential election: the latest poll shows a new high for Le Pen in April’s first round, giving her 28% support and setting her on track to reach the run-off ballot. In view of the consolidation of FN support in the 2014 and 2015 European and regional elections, the party is also likely to gain enough votes to increase its number of parliamentary seats, possibly sufficient to form its own group(1).

As an alternative to polls, we look at political cues provided by the electoral cycle, and how FN presidential performances can be estimated from previous second-order elections. To do so, we use a ‘vote surplus’ model based on aggregate results for the three main political blocs (left, right, FN) at the national level, which factors in the increase in voter participation as well as the growth of the electorate between elections. Taking the 2012 presidential as our benchmark, we start by looking at changes in electoral support from the 2011 cantonals to the 2012 presidential elections in the 1,441 cantons where the FN stood (see Table 1). In the first round of the 2012 presidential election, Marine Le Pen won 2.7 million votes in those 1,441 cantons, an increase of 1.3 million on the FN score in the cantonals. This represented 20.1% of the ‘additional’ vote produced by the larger voting population and higher level of turnout.

Notably, we see that mainstream parties took most of the additional vote in the presidential (81.6%). On the other hand, the model shows a decrease in support for other candidates in the 2012 presidential first round, compared with the cantonals. Interestingly, if we look back at all Presidential elections for Jean-Marie Le Pen, the share of the vote surplus won by the FN is always around 20%, with the exception of 2007’s plunge, where he won only a quarter of a million additional votes, compared with well over a million in all other elections.


Table 1. The 2011-2012 vote surplus model

Canton. 2011

Presid. 2012

Registered

16 933 082

17 231 019

 

 

Votes

7 379 469

13 964 377

Turnout

43.6

81.0

Valid

7 193 776

13 707 535

diff. 2012-2011

% Surplus

% vote 2011

% vote 2012

Left

3 392 322

5 792 387

2 400 065

36.8

Opposition

47.2

42.3

Right

2 279 431

5 195 495

2 916 064

44.8

Incumbent

31.7

37.9

FN

1 379 971

2 686 126

1 306 155

20.1

19.2

19.6

Others

142 052

33 527

-108 525

-1.7

 

2.0

0.2

N cantons (1,441)

7 193 776

13 707 535

6 513 759

100.0

100.0

100.0




For a number of reasons, the political context of the 2017 election resembles that of 2012. The incumbent president and party are extremely low in the opinion polls partly due to the state of the economy, and particularly unemployment, being poor. These issues have divided the ruling Socialist Party, with a significant minority of so-called frondeurs opposed to François Hollande and Emmanuel Macron’s social liberal programme, and former coalition partners such as the EELV now fundamentally at odds with the ruling party’s position. More broadly, the 2017 elections are following similar dynamics to 2012 – lower turnout; poor second-order election performance for the incumbent in the previous electoral cycle; better FN performance; and an unpopular Presidential incumbent looking to secure re-election. In terms of the electoral cycle, we expect broadly similar trends to the previous presidential race.

Under such conditions, we might expect the same dynamics to apply across last second-order / Presidential races. We look therefore at the relationship between the December 2015 regional elections – that is, the most recent election in the current cycle – and the 2017 presidential. We account first for the expected growth in the number of registered voters between December 2015 and April 2017. We make the assumption that this will be of similar magnitude to the average 5-year growth between elections since 1995, and therefore we apply the 1.05 average multiplier to the 2012 number, yielding an expected 48.3 million registered voters in 2017 (see table 2).


Table 2. Growth of the French electorate across election years

Registered voters in presidential elections (national)

Multiplier

1995

39 992 954

-

2002

41 194 689

1.03

2007

44 472 834

1.08

2012

46 028 542

1.04

Mean

1.05

2012

46 028 542

exp. 2017

48 329 969




We also hypothesize a 79.5% turnout comparable to that of the 2012 presidential ballot and a 0.98 ratio to translate votes, including blank and spoilt ballots, into valid votes (which was the actual ratio in the first round of the 2012 presidential election). The model predicts a valid vote cast of 37.9 million in the first round of the 2017 presidential (see Table 3) – an increase of 16.2 million on the regional elections of 2015. Then we apply the relative distribution of additional votes from 2015 to the 2017 presidential election by dividing vote into left, right and FN blocs, and using the previous 2011-2012 surplus ratios to map voting patterns across to the 2017 race.

This predicts that Marine Le Pen would win an additional 3.2 million votes in 2017, which added to the 6 FN million votes in 2015 would give Marine Le Pen 24.4% of the first round vote in 2017. Let us note here that changes in the level of turnout in 2017 would have only limited effect on Le Pen’s support – a differential of around 1% at the extremes of potential turnout.


Table 3. The 2011-2012 vote surplus model applied to 2015-2017

Region. 2015

Presid. 2017

Registered

45 299 289

48 329 969

Exp. Turnout=

79.48

Votes

22 609 335

38 412 659

Ratio Vote/exp:

0.98

Ratio in 2012

Turnout

49.9

79.5

Valid

21 708 280

37 644 406

Exp. diff. 2017-2015

% Surplus

% vote 2015

% vote 2017

Left

8 140 702

15 395 574

7 254 872

44.8

Incumbent

37.5

40.6

Right

6 844 785

12 815 904

5 971 119

36.8

Opposition

31.5

33.8

FN

6 018 672

9 268 253

3 249 581

20.1

27.7

24.4

Others

704 121

434 122

-269 999

-1.7

 

3.2

1.1

All constituencies

21 708 280

37 913 853

16 205 573

100.0

100,0

100.0




The rise in FN support in the 2015 regionals mirrored the decrease in support for the mainstream right, with the left bloc topping the first round. As can be seen from Table 4, this clearly differed from the 2010 regional and 2011 cantonal elections where the left-wing opposition had been the main beneficiary of the wave of political discontent with the Sarkozy presidency, taking about a half of the valid vote on both occasions. In 2015, on the other hand, the FN emerged as a major force of opposition to the socialist government, successfully attracting radicalized right-wing voters – an estimated fifth of former Sarkozy supporters of 2012.


Table 4. Left, Right and FN electoral scores* since 2010

 

Regional 2010

Cantonal 2011

Presidential 2012

Legislative 2012

European 2014

Departem. 2015

Regional 2015

Left

50.2

49.0

42.0

46.8

32.4

36.5

36.0

Right

31.5

33.0

38.1

36.4

36.7

36.4

31.7

FN

11.4

15.1

17.9

13.6

24.9

25.8

27.7


*% of valid vote in the first round
Left = PS, left-wing radicals, other left, EELV and Front de Gauche, excluding extreme left (LP, NPA)
Right = UMP/LR, UDI (Nouveau Centre, Alliance centriste, PRV), MODEM, other right, Debout La France (DLF)



There are a number of factors of uncertainty which could affect the presidential outcome in 2017, however. First, memories of the Paris terrorist attacks in 2015 may be revived in the Presidential campaign, potentially benefiting Marine Le Pen. The short-term presidential boost had disappeared within the first weeks of 2016, but a longer-term swing to more authoritarian and anti-Muslim positions may persist on the right. A second factor concerns the nature of the current electoral dynamics of the FN. The increase in support for the far right since 2014 can be interpreted as the party expanding its electoral base, but it could also be construed as the stabilization of FN support across different arenas of competition, whereby the party would mobilize its voters more consistently across all elections, local or national. Our model clearly assumes the former hypothesis, with a much larger reservoir of votes for Marine Le Pen in 2017.

More importantly, political blocs need to be broken down by the different left and right candidates. Would 24.4% be enough to see her to the second round ? The estimate above puts her in third place compared to the left and right blocs. In 2007 and 2012, a score of 24.4% would have put the FN in third place. But these elections were characterized by a low degree of fragmentation across left and right, with strong PS / UMP polarization. In the more fragmented elections of 1995 and 2002, it would have polled first place. As in 2002, where the elimination of Jospin had resulted primarily from the fragmentation of the former plural left coalition, the cohesiveness of the two mainstream blocs may well decide whether Marine Le Pen reaches the run-off.



(1)Using the same methodology as in this blog, we provide a ‘nowcast’ of the number of seats the FN could win in the 2017 legislative elections, in a research note which will appear in French Politics in September, Volume 14, Issue 3.

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Welcome to '500Signatures', for analysis and commentary on French politics and elections

This blog is produced by Jocelyn Evans (University of Leeds) and Gilles Ivaldi (University of Nice)

 
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Beta-testing social-liberalism 2.0
France’s new earthquake election? The FN in the European elections


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ABOUT THE AUTHORS

Jocelyn Evans [@JocelynAJEvans] is Professor of Politics at the University of Leeds

Gilles Ivaldi is a CNRS researcher in political science based at the University of Nice

 
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CATEGORY
 
DATA

- Forecasting the FN vote in Second-Order elections (updated 12 May 2014)

- Forecasting the FN vote in Second-Order elections (Jan. 2014)

- Polling scores by polling type (CATI v CAWI) (updated 20 April 2012)

- Estimating Marine Le Pen's vote in the 2012 presidentials: an experiment (November 2011)

- Data for the 2011 expert forecast survey (in CSV file)

 

 


 
Last modified on Monday 25 April 2016
Copyright Gilles Ivaldi - @2012-2014