Polls conducted since the Paris attacks blamed on the Islamic State armed group that killed 130 people in the French capital on 13 November show a clear spike in Hollande’s popularity.
Polling institute Ifop showed the president’s approval rate climbed seven points to 27 per cent in November compared to what it was in October, whereas BVA Opinion registered an eight-point increase to 33 per cent.
As in the aftermath of January’s attacks on Charlie Hebdo and kosher supermarket Hyper Cacher, Hollande has benefitted from his role as a crisis manager: 70 per cent of French respondents judge him “credible in the struggle against terrorism”, according to Ifop, and 73 per cent said he was “up to the task” of the present, according to polling institute Odoxa.
“He gave clear responses to people’s fears about terrorism and security,” says Erwan Lestrohan, research director with BVA Opinion, referring to the president’s decree of a state of emergency in France and decision to step up airstrikes against the Islamic State group in Syria.
“For French people, the feeling that there is a leader driving policy around security and making the state responsible for its citizens is important.”
However, polls also show Hollande and his government still suffer from a poor performance on the economic front, namely in its failure to create jobs. As a case in point, only 22 per cent of respondents judge the government’s overall policy to be sound, according to BVA Opinion.
“We cannot make a solid link between this approval on the action against terrorism and the global approval of the government’s action, which is still very much focused on unemployment,” Lestrohan says. “This is the biggest expectation the French people have of the government.”
Polls also suggest poor economic context along with a heightened perception of security threats could play into the hands of the far-right National Front party in regional elections to be held in December.
The 13 November attacks, as well as evidence some suspects entered Europe among the hundreds of thousands of refugees who have sought asylum on the continent this year, means voters for the far-right party “see their fears validated,” says Yves-Marie Cann, director of opinion studies at polling institute CSA.
“The current situation reinforces their ideas and strengthens their intentions to vote” for the far-right party, Cann says. “It also obliges the governing parties, be it the Socialist party today or perhaps Les Républicains tomorrow, to respond to the expectations and risks the party raises among many French voters today.”
The first round of regional elections is coming up on 6 December, with a runoff vote to be held the following weekend, on 13 December.