Brice Teinturier, the head of the polling firm IPSOS, was interviewed on France Inter this morning about his new book Plus rien à faire, plus rien à foutre. As he tells it, large numbers of French people--32% of the electorate, according to his most recent estimate--are completely turned off of politics (and skeptical of democracy). These are not angry voters of the sort who support Le Pen and Mélenchon. They're rather turned-off voters, who believe that the decisions of politicians make no difference in their lives and that political talk is all hot air. The increase in their number is, according to Teinturier, one of the reasons underlying the diminished capacity of political parties to organize the electorate.
Underlying Teinturier's observations is a theory. It goes like this. The period 2007-2017 has been unprecedented in the history of the Fifth Republic, in that it offered an alternation between a pure right-wing quinquennat and a pure left-wing one. In short, both the center-left and the center-right had a chance, undiluted by cohabitation, to show what they could do, and neither provided a solution to the problems perceived by the PRAF (plus rien à foutre ... avec la politique) group to be the major difficulties of the moment. Hence they turned off, drawing the conclusion that the choice between right and left no longer determined their fate. Their disillusionment was exacerbated by the fact that it followed a moment of renewed hope for each camp, Sarkozy briefly reinvigorating the right after years of the fainéant Chirac and Hollande briefly reinvigorating the left.
If these voters are drawn back in, Teinturier believes, it will be by one of the extremes, Mélenchon or Le Pen, and most likely the latter. Macron does not fit the profile: his voters are not turned off by politics but are highly tuned in, identify with the decision-making class, and believe that their choice will matter.
I would not have guessed that the turned-off portion of the population was as large as Teinturier says it is, but I do think he's on to something.