POLITICS
03/15/2017 08:42 pm ET

Polls Show Populist Le Pen Could Win First Round Of France’s Presidential Election

But the right-wing nationalist candidate trails both Emmanuel Macron and François Fillon in a runoff.

Front National candidate Marine Le Pen’s lead in French pre-election polls raises the specter of France falling to right-wing populist power similar to the forces that resulted in U.K. voters choosing Brexit and U.S. voters electing Donald Trump to the presidency.

Le Pen, running on a platform that promises to make France more secure and inwardly focused, much as Trump promised during his U.S. campaign, has an average of 26.5 percent support. She has consistently held the lead in the first round of voting, but En Marche’s Emmanuel Macron is close behind with 25.8 percent support.

Unless she pulls off a surprise and gets a majority of the vote on April 23, Le Pen will have to face either Macron or Les Républicains’ François Fillon in a runoff election on May 7. Le Pen doesn’t poll very well against either of these two most likely runoff opponents. 

According to HuffPost Pollster’s new French election poll aggregates, Le Pen trails Macron by more than 20 points, and she’s 16 points behind Fillon. The more likely matchup at the moment appears to be Le Pen vs. Macron.

HuffPost Pollster

The estimates are based on the polls’ “trend” over time. Statistically speaking, it’s a loess regression model running behind the scenes to estimate where the most likely value of the candidate’s support is based on polls from the last few days/week and current polls.

In lay terms, it’s a trend line estimate based on past and current polls. So it includes prior polls, but the longer in the past those polls were, the less impact they have on the estimate. Current polls are the most important, but it does use data up to a week or so ago to help in the calculation.

HuffPost Pollster
Since the beginning of February, when pollsters began regularly releasing surveys on the contest, candidates’ support levels have remained fairly static, with only a few bumps ― most notably, three-time presidential candidate François Bayrou announced he wouldn’t run and endorsed Macron in late February, giving the progressive an increase in support.
However, with more than a month to go before the first vote in a campaign rocked by scandals and investigations, that could easily change.
Fillon’s viability has become questionable, as he faces 
for paying his wife and children to be parliamentary assistants while he was a senator (but they might not have actually performed any work). Some are calling for Fillon to step aside as his party’s candidate and to allow his primary opponent and former prime minister Alain Juppé to take over. Juppé announced last week that he would not step in, but that was before the official investigation was announced.

Le Pen is under investigation for misspending funds from the European Union, but most of the focus has been on her chief of staff, who was paid using those funds. Le Pen’s polling numbers haven’t moved much since that story broke in late February.  

Polls are also more strictly regulated in France than in the U.S. Laws govern what information must be released with polls and when they can be released during an election campaign, and La Commission des Sondages (The Commission of Surveys) provides oversight to ensure pollsters operate within those guidelines. This ensures that pollsters release relevant methodological information to the public, and pollsters have to register with the commission in order to release polls.  

Given this oversight, there are many fewer pollsters and polls in France than in the U.S. HuffPost Pollster is tracking polls from seven pollsters, including daily tracking polls from Ifop and OpinionWay. Many of the polls are co-sponsored by French media organizations.

Pollsters and media outlets are not allowed to release polling data the day before or the day of the election, so final pre-election surveys will be released on April 21 for the first round and May 5 for the second round.

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