Tuesday, March 27, 2012


Harris, IFOP, and Ipsos all have new polling results today, but there are no dramatic changes, and the fluctuations look like statistical noise rather than any change in the fundamental situation, which is: virtual dead heat in round 1 followed by a clear Hollande victory in round 2. The Mélenchon "surge" is confirmed, but it's not clear where his strength is coming from. As I put it the other day, he has wiped out the extreme left: Poutou is at 0.5% and Arthaud at 0! Eva Joly is also au ras des pâquerettes. Bayrou continues to poke along, in some polls above Mélenchon, in others below. With Marine Le Pen, those two constitute the second tier of candidates. And there you have it. A roughly 60/40 split in the electorate between the mainstream and those who would prefer something completely different--except that, when push comes to shove, they probably wouldn't want things to change too much.

A few years ago, the historian Perry Anderson ended a brilliant if rather splenetic article about France with the remark, "Ce peuple est encore dangereux." I don't think so. Which is not to say that the next few years may not witness considerable unrest. About which more on another occasion.

Who's For Mélenchon?

Slate.fr, true to the contrarian spirit of its American parent publication, is giving Jean-Luc Mélenchon a hard time about his claim to represent "the workers." (h/t Arun Kapil) So let's concede right off the bat that the demographic polling reported in this article is open to considerable skepticism. Slate's view seems to be that Mélenchon is appealing primarily to what used to be called "the aristocracy of the working class":

Selon cette enquête, l'électorat potentiel de Jean-Luc Mélenchon est dominé par les professions intermédiaires du privé (chef d’équipe, technicien, contremaître) et surtout de la fonction publique (instits, assistantes sociales, éducateurs spécialisés, employés des collectivités territoriales, infirmières), qui constituait déjà le cœur du famélique 1,93% de Marie-George Buffet lors de la présidentielle 2007. Le groupe libéral Trop Libre, lui, pointe aujourd'hui le «paradoxe d’un discours ouvriériste qui séduit par tropisme idéologique un électorat assez éloigné de l’univers des ouvriers».
IFOP's polling now suggests that Hollande is getting 30% of the working-class vote, ahead of Mélenchon, and that Marine Le Pen's strength seems to have waned in this category. What seems clear is that there is a substantial segment of the electorate that is unusually unmoored in this election. Marine Le Pen's recalibration of her party's discourse is perhaps one factor in this unmooring: by shifting her target from race and religion to economic issues, she may have prepared some of her former supporters to prick their ears in other directions as well. And now that she has fallen back on a primarily xenophobic line in the wake of Toulouse and Montauban, workers whom she had attracted early on may be turning in disappointment back to the left in one of its incarnations or the other.

OECD Warns Eurozone on Need for Reform

The OECD has told the Eurozone that it needs to undertake "ambitious structural reforms" in order to avoid a further recession. It also warned that the financial backstop might need to be increased. Neither of these things is news, but the OECD statement may give cover to European leaders hesitant about what to do next.