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[Survey] - What the French Think about Local Government and Europe’s Crisis Response

BLOG - 15 May 2020

By Institut Montaigne

Each month, ELABE interviews the French population for Les Echos, Institut Montaigne and Radio Classique. This month, the French were asked about social mobilisations during Covid-19.

Local government is handling the crisis better than the State or the European Union

For the majority of French people, the municipalities (66%), departments (61%) and regions (58%) have risen to the challenge of the coronavirus crisis. This rating needs to be viewed with caution, as only a small portion considers them to be fully up to the task (18%, 10% and 9% respectively).

All categories of the population share the opinion that local authorities have been able to face their responsibilities in the current health crisis, especially those aged 65 and over (74%, 69% and 67% respectively), and those living in urban areas with fewer than 20,000 inhabitants (74%, 67% and 62%). Politically, the voters of Emmanuel Macron (77%, 67%, 66%) and François Fillon (69%, 71%, 67%) have a more positive view of the local powers.

While the local authorities were able to convince the population of their capacity, only 31% of French people perceive the French government as capable of handling the crisis. Those aged between 18 and 24 hold a more positive opinion than their elders, with 41% of them praising the government's ability to deal with the health crisis. Politically, only Macron's electorate considers that the state has risen to the challenge (56%). Other fringes of the electorate are more critical, such as voters of Fillon (34%) and Hamon (28%). Voters of Mélenchon (20%) and Le Pen (20%) are the most critical of the state during this time.

International organisations are judged harshly, with only 31% of French people approving of the WHO’s handling of the crisis, and barely 20% for the EU.

  • A generational divide is observed between the 18 to 24-year olds who take a more benevolent view (WHO 44%, EU 32%) compared to their more critical elders, aged 65 and over (27%, 12%).
  • Macron's electorate is the least critical of these two actors: 42% consider that the WHO has been up to the task, and 32% for the EU.

 

A majority in favour of strengthening local power

Deemed successful in their response to the health crisis, 55% of French people would like to see the powers of local authorities strengthened, while 38% believe they should continue to have as much power as they have today. Only 7% would like to see their power reduced. Those aged 65 and over (64%) are most favourable to increasing the powers of local authorities, while those aged 18-24 are slightly less convinced (45%).

The French are split between increasing the state’s powers (43%) and keeping it as it currently is (46%), while 11% are in favour of a reduction. The political divide is clear, with on the one hand, voters of Fillon (53%) and Le Pen (49%), if favour of increasing France's powers, and on the other hand, voters of Macron (55%), Hamon (58%), and Mélenchon (51%), more favourable of maintaining the current situation.

The French are also divided on the European question. While 44% wish for the European Union to continue having as much power as it has today, 38% want a decrease and only 18% are in favour of strengthening the EU. 

The socio-economic categories that want the EU's powers reduced are the French aged between 50 and 64 (50%), and those in a tight financial situation (43%). Politically, this view is particularly strong among Le Pen's voters (59%).

Finally, the increase of the EU's powers is most popular among those aged 18 to 24-year old (27%) and Macron's voters (24%).

 

The European question divides the French, with a third wanting more autonomy, a third in favour of cooperation limited to a few European countries, and another third wishing for the EU to be strengthened. 

For 34% of French people, France should prioritise cooperation with a limited number of European countries. This opinion is particularly strong among upper social classes (39%) and Fillon's voters (42%).

For 33% of French people, France must be more autonomous. Age-wise, this opinion is particularly present among 50-64-year olds (38%). Socio-economically, working class groups (46%), people in a strained financial situation (39%), and those with educational attainment below the baccalaureate (41%) are more likely to be favourable of the idea of France's "sovereignty" over cooperation with other European countries. Le Pen's electorate (50%) is the most widely convinced by this idea.

Finally, 32% of French people think that France should seek to strengthen the European Union. A relative majority of those aged 65 and over (38%) are in favour of a strengthened European Union. Socio-economically, executives (43%), the financially well-off (35%) and those most educated (46%) want France to do more to consolidate the European Union. Politically, this is an idea more widely shared by the electorates of Hamon (55%) and Macron (49%).

 

The majority of French people want border controls to be maintained for the long term after the crisis.

55% of French people want border restrictions to continue permanently after the coronavirus crisis, 38% want them to remain in place only for the duration of the crisis, and 6% want them to be lifted immediately.

In terms of age, those aged 50 and more are more likely to be in favour of maintaining border restrictions permanently (62%). This opinion is particularly shared among Le Pen (69%) and Fillon (68%) voters. 

Conversely, those wanting borders to remain in place only for the duration of the crisis tend to be between 18- and 24-year olds (50%). Socio-economically, it is those in the upper social classes (46%) with an educational attainment beyond the baccalaureate (43%) who think that these restrictions are only appropriate in times of crisis. Finally, 63% of voters of Hamon and 53% of those of Macron are in favour of these restrictions during the health crisis.

A strong aspiration towards "Made in France"

The vast majority of French people believe it useful for France to have the means to produce everything it needs on its territory in terms of health (85%), food (80%) and technology (62%). This optimistic opinion in favour of local production is shared across all categories of the population and even more so among Fillon voters (91% for health), executives (88% for food) and the 50-64 age group (68% for technology).

A minority of French people think it would be useful to produce locally but feel that this will not be possible whether it is for health (14%), food (17%) or technologies (33%).

Finally, a very small share of French people considers that producing locally is useless, whether in the area of health (1%), food (3%) or technology (5%).

 

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