Thursday, April 5, 2012

Polls, sigh

Writing about polls is the degree zero of blogging, but I must do my duty. The latest CSA poll has Hollande closing the first-round gap with Sarkozy and still leading comfortably in the second round. The interesting thing, though, is that the center is hollowing out. Bayrou is down to 10%, and Eva Joly has ceased to exist, dwindling to numbers that put her in the company of Poutou and Arthaud. Mélenchon and Le Pen slug it out at 15 and 13 respectively.

So--and this is something of a surprise--we have a four-tier election: the two frontrunners, followed by the two extremes, followed by a center that is not quite holding, and finally a rump of non-factors. Another poll shows Sarkozy taking votes from both Le Pen and, somewhat paradoxically, Bayrou. What this suggests is that the inexorable logic of the presidential contest is coming into play. Voters are increasingly certain that there will be no inter-round funny business as there was in 2007, when it seemed possible that Royal and Bayrou might conclude some sort of alliance. Hence they must choose either Hollande or Sarkozy. Some voters who had formerly supported Bayrou but who cannot countenance a victory of the Left are therefore deserting to Sarkozy, while some Le Penistes have been seduced (yet again) by the droitisation of Sarkozy's rhetoric.

Since most of Mélenchon's voters will go for Hollande in round 2 (and Aubry is now canvassing the possibility of Communist ministers--"Why not?" she asks--to make sure they don't desert or stay home), the question remains: What will Bayrou's hard-core 10% do in round 2? Despite Hollande's comfortable lead in round 2 polling, I don't think this is quite a done deal. The inter-round head-to-head debate between Hollande and Sarkozy therefore looms ever larger. A major slip-up by Hollande could shift the report des voix in this crucial centrist group one way or the other. My guess is that these centrists have forgotten how good Sarkozy can be in debate. They remember all the things they don't like about the past 5 years, but they haven't yet seen Hollande fully exposed in the glare of the presidential spotlight. No one has, really. So that last debate will have a lot riding on it.


Anonymous said...

Art, tu vas un peu vite en besogne... There will be one head-to-debate between Sarkozy and Hollande between the two rounds and which will likely benefit the latter more than the former. Sarko can be effective and pugnacious when interviewed by journalists but the dynamics of political debates are different. In the 2007 debate with Ségolène Royal he was deliberately low-key - he looked like he was on Valium at points - making Royal look hotheaded by comparison, which is why she ultimately lost the debate. Sarko will have his match in Hollande, who is a good debater, not too-hot-to-handle like his ex and who will certainly do better than the over-the-hill Fabius last month (who I believe was the only major politician to go head-to-head with Sarko since Royal, though that wasn't really a debate). Hollande is steady, has a mastery of policy, and is not gaffe prone. There is no reason to believe that he won't rise to the occasion. Centrist fence-sitters will more likely go his way after the debate. On verra bien.


Merlin said...

A lot depends also on Melenchon. If it stops a t 14-15% Hollande has a chance.

If it moves up another 2 to 3 points, then the dynamic may change. Hollande is for now as far right as it can be and as "petit bras" as he can but this disatisfies leftwing voters.

If Holland moves left, he loses the center. If he does not move, then we may have another case of "bonnet blanc et blanc bonnet".

Not mentionning people on the right and on the left voting tactically to lose the poll. Whoever win this time is out of power for 25 years.