The first round of the French Presidential elections is due to be held in 17 days (on 23rd April), with the likely second round two weeks later on 7th May. The eleven presidential candidates yesterday took part in the final televised debate before the first round.
Weighing their performances remains fraught with difficulty and the key question remains whether the centre-left candidate Emmanuel Macron and National Front leader Marine Le Pen are still likely to make it to the second round.
This in-depth four-part Election Series examines all core elements of the upcoming presidential and legislative elections and takes a quantitative and qualitative approach.
In Part III, I tackle five questions, looking at past presidential elections where appropriate:
Q1: At this stage can we predict with any accuracy the eventual winner?
The media would suggest that we cannot and there is certainly scope for surprises. At the very least opinion polls could be under or over-estimating candidates’ chances. But if Macron and Le Pen make it to the second round, Macron looks set to be elected President based on opinion polls.
Q2: Are French presidential opinion polls reliable?
They accurately predicted the outcome of the 2012 and 2007 presidential elections and the eventual winner of the 2002 election. But opinion polls under-estimated support for Jean-Marie Le Pen in the first round in 2002.
Q3: What are French opinion polls currently predicting?
Macron and Le Pen are neck and neck in the first round on about 25% but these polls do not account for undecided voters and turnout.
Q4: Do French regional elections tell us anything about candidates’ chances?
The December 2015 regional elections suggest that while Marine Le Pen will do well in the first round, she will struggle in the second round in the face of concerted political opposition.
Q5: What are the odds of a left-wing candidate becoming President?
While Mélenchon is likely to come a credible fourth, based on current opinion polls, neither him nor Socialist Party candidate Hamon are likely to get even close to making it to the second round.