Published May 10, 2022
Sometimes, the outcome of an election brings surprises. Other times? Not so much.
The outcome of the second round of voting in the 2022 French presidential election was not surprising. Seventy-one percent of French citizens predicted Emmanuel Macron’s victory before the election—they just didn’t know the extent to which he would win.
On the day of the second round of voting, Harris Interactive and Toluna partnered to conduct a major survey for RTL and M6. This ‘Voting Day’ survey was administered to more than 7,000 French citizens between 9am and 5pm, making it the country’s largest voting day survey.
1. Our first observation was that voters made their decisions well in advance of the election, and slightly more so than in 2017. Over four in ten (43%) voters said they always knew who they wanted to vote for in the second round—even before the results of the first round. This is a sign that most voters knew who would be advancing to round two.
The 2017 election was a little more surprising, as Emmanuel Macron, a first-time candidate, came first in the first round. In that election, only 35% of voters said they knew their final choice before the first round. In 2022, French citizens were firm in their choice, with 74% having decided either before or upon hearing the results of the first round.
Voters who made up their minds in the last few days leading up to the second round of the election were almost equally divided between the two candidates (26% Marine Le Pen; 25% Emmanuel Macron), with the debate between rounds having no major impact on voting intentions.
2. It is clear that Marine Le Pen was a key consideration for Emmanuel Macron’s voters and vice versa. For Marine Le Pen’s voters, 43% said they voted for her to prevent Macron from being re-elected, first and foremost—a four-point increase since 2017. For voters of Macron, it was about blocking the candidate of the Rassemblement National. Half (50%) of Emmanuel Macron’s voters say they voted for him primarily to prevent Marine Le Pen from becoming president—a proportion that is nine points lower than in 2017 (59%).
3. The candidates were perceived as having different skills. For Marine Le Pen, it was her ability to speak about everyday concerns (56%) and her campaign agenda (55%). For Emmanuel Macron, it was his ability to represent France internationally (54%) and his presidential stature (47%).
For Le Pen, these perceptions mirror the results from 2017. For Macron, though, these perceptions have grown stronger since 2017 thanks to his performance in office. As a first-time candidate in 2017, his ability to represent France abroad (40%) and his ability to be a good President (35%) were not perceived as strong as they are today.
4. Macron and Le Pen’s two radically different positions emerged in a campaign where purchasing power was squarely on voters’ minds. Over half (52%) of French people cited it as one of the most important factors in their voting choice, and it was the most-cited theme throughout the campaign. Purchasing power was only the fifth most important factor (29%) in 2017. Marine Le Pen benefitted from and was viewed as the candidate most likely to address these issues. In fact, 64% of her voters named purchasing power as their primary concern.
At the same time, the theme of the war in Ukraine, which was at the heart of the debates in February, lost intensity and only appeared as an important theme for 21% of French people—and Emmanuel Macron’s voters, specifically (33% vs. 5% of Marine Le Pen’s voters).
5. Overall, French citizens are not very enthusiastic about the re-election of Emmanuel Macron. Forty-three percent anticipate that their personal life will worsen in the coming months, and the same percentage anticipate that things will worsen in France, as a whole. Even those who voted for Macron are not overly optimistic about positive change, as only 36% imagine that his re-election will lead to an improvement in their personal situation.
For most French citizens, this election has left them with a bitter taste in their mouths. The first words used to describe the campaign were disappointment (73%) and the failure of the race (65%). Very few French people found the campaign to be compelling or useful.