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Who voted for Le Pen? Who voted for Melenchon?


Eric Dupin

Beyond the overall balance in favour of the left, the first round of the presidential election
will remain marked by two surges with implications for the future: the influence of the National
Front and unique installation the Left Front in the political landscape. A geographical and sociological analysis of the vote helps identify the novelty of these phenomena.

Le Pen

Never have the Front National  picked up so many votes: 6.4 million against 4.8 in 2002. Its success on 22 April shows its ability to win over several different electorates. With her broad focus and a less sulfurous reputation that her father, Marine Le Pen has added successive strata.

The Front National maintains its strong scores on the Mediterranean coast where the extreme right had
made its first inroads in the 80s. Le Pen collected 24.8% of the votes cast in the Var, 24.2% in the
Pyrenees-Orientales, 23.4% in the Bouches du Rhone or 23.5% in the Alpes-Maritimes. In Menton, a peaceful coastal town with an elderly and well off population, it got 25.7% of the vote.

Marine Le Pen then reclaimed the North East of France, with its  battered industrial tradition, which had
voted for her father in 2002 but was seduced by Nicolas Sarkozy in 2007. She captured 24.7% of the
vote in Moselle and 28.2% in the symbolic commune of Gandhinagar where she is well ahead of Sarkozy (19%). Five years ago, in this place marked by the steel crisis, the UMP candidate was leading with 25.6%,
against only 16.2% to Jean-Marie Le Pen.

The Front National candidate improved her performance in places dominated by social suffering. She recorded 25.3% of the vote in Haute-Marne, ranking first in the small town of Rachecourt-sur-Marne (32.7%) hit by deindustrialization. Aisne (26.3%), Ardennes (24.5%) or the Oise (25.1%) also provide some high
scores. In the latter department, note the 32.5% collected in Granvilliers, the town in the Picardy plateau that is facing a rise in insecurity.

The success of the Front National also rests on expanding its influence in the territories which were once unfavourable. Cantonal elections of 2011 had already revealed an advance of the party in western France, but also in rural areas where the lower classes were driven out of cities by property prices.

Le Pen is below 12% in only one department of Brittany, one of Finistere, although this region of
Catholic culture and low immigrant presence once ‘sulked’ at Front National.

She gets 19.2% in the Sarthe region where support has been traditional, if moderate, gaining far more than her father in 2002. Then there’s her performance in the rural department of the Creuse, struggling with economic and social problems. With 16.3% of the vote, Marine boosts her father’s performance from a decade ago (11.2%).


The recovery of a part of the working class territory by the Front National has hit Sarkozy. The geography
of Sarkozy’s vote is dominated by the most conservative departments like the Vendee (32.9%) or the Haute-Savoie (34.1%). Sarkozy is a hit in the affluent and aging Alpes-Maritimes (37.2%) in the Var, peaking at 58.3% in Saint-Tropez.

Sarkozy reaches new heights in the wealthy Neuilly-sur-Seine (Hauts-de-Seine), with 72.6% of the vote, Francois Bayrou having to settle for 7.5% of votes.

An extensive survey OpinionWay-Fiducial, conducted April 22 with 10,418 voters for Le Figaro,
specifies the sociological profile of the electorate. Le Pen led strongly among
workers (35%) and the most poorly educated (29%). She is overtaken by Hollande in households
earning less than 1,000 euros per month (24% against 27%) and in the 1 000 to 1 999 euros (28% against
23%) bracket.

In contrast to his performance in 2007, Sarkozy was not been supported on Sunday by people of the
traditional right. His score rises among voters over 60 years of age (39%), artisans, merchants and business leaders (42%) or in a household with an income of more than 3500 euros (37%).

The geography of the vote in favor of Jean-Luc Melenchon reflects only very partially the map of
historical influence of Communism in France. The candidate of the Left Front certainly gets strong scores in fine old red earth such as the Haute-Vienne (14.4% of votes). There is also his performance in the Ariege (16.9%) or the Alpes de Haute-Provence (15.2%).

In the Northeast, Mélenchon struggles even if he secures 12.1% of the votes in Meurthe-et-Moselle. In the West, he gets some surprising scores in Britanny such as 11.5% of votes in Finistere. Again, the results reflect an ability to bring together various electorates.

The Paris region: Mélenchon is a hit in north east Paris, formerly a working class distruct but now “Bobois”    [ ‘bourgeois-bohemian’, or young, middle-class, educated urban professional]. He captures 14.1% of the votes in the eleventh arrondissement and climbed to 17.4% in the twentieth.

But the candidate of the Left Front also carries strong scores in the communes of Seine-Saint-Denis
(17%). In Aubervilliers (20.5%), La Courneuve (20.4%) or Saint-Denis (21.7%), nearly doubling his national score even if these areas of with strong immigrant populations largely backed Francois Hollande albeit against a background of high abstention.

According OpinionWay, Mélenchon initially attracted the young, with 16% among those under 25 years. He
convinced both 15% workers and 14% of “professionals”. The Left Front was particularly supported by
public sector employees (14% against 12% in the private).

His influence is inversely proportional to the level of income, with a maximum of 17% in the lowest
bracket. If Mélenchon is far from having succeeded in socio-economic categories dominated by Le Pen he managed to be heard among some of them.

The Socialist candidate scores highest with executives (34%) and technicians (35%) but is also supported by a quarter of the working class electorate.

Similarly he does well among the over 50s (31%), while attracting a quarter of the youngest. And his following is almost even among the poorest households (27%) and the richest (29%).

The comfortable upper middle-class suburban communities that carry considerable electoral weight seem to have finally tipped on Hollande’s side. Pontault-Combault in the sparsely populated Seine-et-Marne commune puts Hollande (31.4%) in the lead. Five years ago, it had plumped for Sarkozy in almost reverse proportions (33.6%).


Translation by Revolting Europe

About revoltingeurope

Writer on Europe's Left, trade union and social movements @tomgilltweets or @revoltingeurope


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