For more than a month now, Yellow Vests have been in the spotlight, undermining the French government and thus forcing it to react. How can we explain this movement, which is not linked to any political party and which apparently brings together people from all sides? How can this movement, which indicates a crisis of confidence in institutions as well as social discontent, evolve? Marc Lazar, contributor on French and European political and institutional issues, shares his analysis.
To what extent does this movement underline a crisis of confidence in French institutions?
The Yellow Vests movement illustrates the deep sentiment of political mistrust that France has been experiencing for decades, and which has undoubtedly increased since Emmanuel Macron's election. Since 2009, the Center of political research at Sciences Po (CEVIPOF) has been conducting an annual political confidence barometer. In light of the events currently taking place, it is worth reviewing the lessons of the 2018 barometer based on a survey conducted in December 2017.
- 83% of French people have the impression that politicians do not care about them.
- 68% of French people think that politicians "talk about problems in too abstract a way".
- 62% of French people believe that "most politicians only care about the rich and powerful".
- 34% of of French people think "that there is nothing to be proud of in our democratic system".
- 31 % of French people claim that "politicians do not deserve respect".
Moreover, only 29% of French people have confidence in the National Assembly, 32% in the European Union, 33% in the presidency and 30% in the government. They feel slightly more in touch with all local structures:
- 53% of them have confidence in the city council and their mayors.
- 43% of them trust the departmental council.
- and 41% of French people have faith in the regional council.
This massive distrust in the political class - considered to be out of touch from reality and too distant from the people - and in institutions leads to a mistrust of politics in general, shared by 39% of the French. 25% declare being “disgusted” by politics.
This is a direct result of the country's social situation, for which all leaders are claimed responsible, regardless of their political affiliation. More deeply, all these indicators also stem from profound changes in democracy in France. Society as a whole expresses a decreased interest in organisations, intermediary bodies, trade unions (only 27% of French people have faith in them), political parties (9%) and the media (24%) as well as being disrupted by governance transformations due to increasing Europeanisation. One could highlight the fact that mistrust is also visible within society: only 40% of French people trust people they meet for the first time (compared to 92% who trust their families and people they know personally). We could easily bet that this year's barometer will record even more negative results.