5 charts to help you read the French presidential election

The countdown is on to the biggest election in Europe this year. On April 10, voters in France head to the polling stations to decide whether to give Emmanuel Macron a second five-year term as president. Local pollsters survey the public on a daily basis, churning huge amounts of data that, once aggregated, provide indispensable insight into the likely outcome — and indicate whether there are still potential wildcards out there who could spark an upset. POLITICO tracks all the polls, and we have crunched the numbers for you in the five points below.

1. Macron is the clear favorite, but …

Data on voting intentions in the first (April 10) and second (April 24) rounds of the election provides very clear trend lines for the leading candidates. The two top-ranked candidates in the first round advance to a head-to-head round a fortnight later. Macron, the incumbent, leads by a wide margin in all polls for the first round. But, but, but … his most recent bounce in the polls is starting to fade, and far-right National Rally candidate Marine Le Pen has picked up voters from her upstart rival Eric Zemmour, whose campaign looks to be faltering. So Macron’s overall lead has narrowed slightly.

FRANCE PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION POLL OF POLLS

For more polling data from across Europe visit POLITICO Poll of Polls.

2. Ukraine is a worry, but so are other issues

Trying to determine what is on voters’ minds in the run-up to the election and what are the key issues driving them to say they will vote for a particular candidate can be difficult to measure. Often the answers in surveys will depend very much on the wording of the questions. French voters give very different answers when asked to name a) the biggest challenge the country faces and b) the most important issue to them ahead of their vote. There is general concern that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is a threat to security and stability and so it is given a high priority in terms of the challenges France is facing — and history suggests that this would favor the incumbent, particularly one who tried, albeit in vain, to talk Russian President Vladimir Putin out of going to war. But domestic perennials such as the economy — especially the rise in the cost of living — and social issues rank higher when it comes to choosing a president.

3. Abstention likely to reach a new high

While interest in the election campaign itself is no lower than in previous years, more voters than ever say they plan to stay home on election day. The lowest first-round turnout in recent years was 71.6 percent in 2002 — which helped far-right firebrand Jean-Marie Le Pen make a stunning breakthrough into the runoff against Jacques Chirac.

4. Could there be an upset?

While the poll numbers suggest it’s all over already for Macron’s challengers, it may be premature to totally discount an upset somewhere down the line. Supporters of left-wing candidate Jean-Luc Mélenchon seem unsure for whom they would vote in the second round if, as seems likely, their candidate falls at the first hurdle. A consolidated conservative and far-right vote plus high abstention rates could be a recipe for a surprise.

5. Runoff scenario: A repeat of 2017?

For now, the April 24 runoff looks likely to pit Macron against Le Pen, a repeat of the 2017 election-decider. And the result is likely to be the same, too, the polls show. Macron has a safe lead in all polls asking about second-round voting intentions, irrespective of his opponent.



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