Making sense of the polls

Making sense of the polls

Macron likely to defeat Le Pen in French Presidential election runoff

In the first round of the French Presidential election held yesterday, centrist Emmanuel Macron won 23.8% of the vote, followed by the far right Marine Le Pen on 21.5%, conservative Francois Fillon on 19.9% and the hard left Jean-Luc Melenchon on 19.6%. The top two vote winners, Macron and Le Pen, qualified for the 7 May runoff. These results are final, apart from overseas French.

Runoff polling has Macron crushing Le Pen by about 62-38. The polling in the first round was accurate, with the top four candidates finishing close to their polling; in fact, Le Pen slightly underperformed her polls.

Candidates such as Le Pen polarise opinion; either people love them, and will vote for them, or they detest them, and will vote for almost any alternative. With Fillon and the Socialist Benoit Hamon, who won 6.4%, endorsing Macron in the runoff, it is unlikely that Le Pen can significantly narrow the huge Macron lead. Macron is the overwhelming favourite to win the runoff, and the Presidency.

As US commentator Nate Silver notes, the French runoff is very different from either Trump’s US victory, or the UK Brexit win. In both these cases, the favourite was only ahead by a few points, and in fact Clinton won the US national popular vote by 2.1 points. In France, Macron leads by about 24 points. It is likely that only a major scandal could erode Macron’s lead.

This was a disappointing election for the established French political parties. Dire ratings for incumbent Socialist President Francois Hollande should have made Fillon a clear favourite, but he flopped, largely due to allegations that he had given government money to his wife and children for fake jobs. A 6.4% vote share for the Socialist candidate was dreadful, but at least Hamon’s vote was higher than the 5% needed for government reimbursement of election expenses.

Coalition gains a point in Newspoll, but Labor leads 52-48

This week’s Newspoll, conducted Thursday to Sunday from a sample of 1690, has Labor leading by 52-48, a one point gain for the Coalition since the previous Newspoll, three weeks ago. Primary votes are Coalition 36% (steady), Labor 35% (down 1), One Nation 10% (steady) and Greens 9% (down 1).

32% were satisfied with Turnbull’s performance (up 2) and 57% were dissatisfied (down 2), for a net approval of -25. Shorten’s net approval was up two points to -20.

The government’s small recovery is probably due to announcements on 457 visas and the citizenship test. We will need to wait to see if this recovery holds once these announcements fade from memory.

It is likely that there will be another three week break in Newspoll, with the next one the traditional post-budget Newspoll. The budget will be delivered in 15 days, on 9 May.

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