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Why does France’s youth support Marine Le Pen?

Young French voters are turning to Le Pen. Credit: Getty

April 16, 2021 - 2:30pm

If it was left to youngish French people, Marine Le Pen would probably be elected President of the Republic next May. There has been a radical shift in her favour among French 25-34 year olds, according to a recent Elabe poll (figures confirmed in other surveys by Ipsos and Ifop).

The figures are disturbing if you fear a French lurch to the far-Right next year. They need to be read with caution. Younger and older age groups are more favourable to President Emmanuel Macron.

All the same, the poll says a great deal about the mood of France before next year’s election — and the possible direction of French politics in the 2020s and beyond.

Young people in Britain are disproportionately anti-Brexit and anti-Boris Johnson. Young people in France are now disproportionately prepared to vote for the Europhobic Le Pen and dismiss Macron’s arguments for a strong France in a strong Europe.

In both cases, that is partly driven by contempt for the certainties of an older generation — in Britain’s case anti-European nationalism; in France’s case, pro-European memories of two world wars.

The Elabe poll gives Le Pen 37% among 25-34 year olds in the first round of the elections next April and Macron only 17%. This is a big shift. In 2017, voters in the same age group were 28% pro-Macron and 24% Le Pen.

The numbers are explained partly, I think, by their anger and frustration after a year of precious youth sacrificed to Covid social restrictions. But youngish French people have been drifting away from “mainstream” politics and hand-me-down ideas for years.

In 2017, over 20% in the 25-34 age group voted for the hard-Left, nationalist fire-brand Jean-Luc MĂ©lenchon. His support has now collapsed, according to the Elabe poll, to 14%.

The “young versus old” argument goes only so far. Similar polls taken by Ipsos and Ifop this month show that Macron is  popular among first time voters aged 18-24.  His first round support in this younger group is 29%, compared to 20% for Le Pen.

Neither of these age groups are especially reliable electors. Their turnout in presidential elections is around 67% compared to 75% for the country as a whole. Nationally, other polls put Le Pen and Macron neck and neck in first round at around 26% to 24% with Macron winning the 2nd round next May by circa 55-45% (compared to 66-34% in 2017).

All the same, the willingness of so many young French people to vote for a reformed Lepennism — cosmetically reformed  — is striking. Much of France was once immunised against race-based, identity politics by the Second World War and by the outright anti-Semitism of Marine Le Pen’s father Jean-Marie. As the generations go by, memories fade. The immunisation wears off.

The likelihood is that Marine Le Pen will not become President next year. In 2027, when generational memories have faded further, France could be ripe for plucking by a populist, nationalist, Eurosceptic candidate. Who might that be? Look no further than Le Pen’s niece, Marion MarĂ©chal.


John Lichfield was Paris correspondent of The Independent for 20 years. Half-English and half-Belgian, he was born in Stoke-on-Trent and lives in Normandy.

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Fraser Bailey
Fraser Bailey
3 years ago

Again we have the lazy media demonisation of Le Pen as ‘far right’ when, economically, she is some way to the left or Macron and the EU.
The fact is that more young people are turning to Le Pen because they are the one who experience most vividly the consequences of mass immigration etc.
And we all know that Marion Marechal would wipe the floor with any of the other candidates.

George Wells
George Wells
3 years ago
Reply to  Fraser Bailey

The expression ‘far right’ is used to associate opponents with Hitler.
It is just a smear. This left/right paradigm is completely unhelpful. Let’s talk about facts and principles not trade insults. We mustn’t accept that people accuse each other of being right-wing. It doesn’t mean anything.
Manners! Nuance! Facts! Doubt! Curiosity! Love! Effort!
Not insults.

Terry M
Terry M
3 years ago
Reply to  George Wells

Ironically, of course, since Hitler was a National SOCIALIST. People conflate Nazi militarism with the right wing, which is a canard, since Communists and Socialist governments are immensely more lethal to their own citizens

Johannes Kreisler
Johannes Kreisler
3 years ago
Reply to  Terry M

 Hitler was a National SOCIALIST. 

Absolutely – and a textbook example of that. Socialism being the politics/ideology of envy, spite and revenge towards those the socialist regards as “better” (richer, brighter, more talented / successful, etc.) than him/herself, it’s hardly surprising that antisemitism is rampant not only in the Labour party but also in various american leftist racial grievance-mongering outfits.

Johannes Kreisler
Johannes Kreisler
3 years ago
Reply to  Terry M

 HÂĄt|er was a National SOCIALIST. 

Absolutely – and a textbook example of that. Socialism being the politics/ideology of envy, spite and revenge towards those the socialist regards as “better” (richer, brighter, more talented / successful, etc.) than him/herself, it’s hardly surprising that ant¡sem¡t¡sm is rampant not only in the Labour party but also in various american leftist rac¡al grievance-mongering outfits.

Philip May
Philip May
3 years ago
Reply to  Fraser Bailey

Thank you for your post Fraser. Here in Canada, among the mainstream media, LePen is seen as a “far right” threat to peace, order and good government and right thinking people everywhere. That reaction has always seen to me as extreme. I’ve wondered why this is and you provided me with something to ponder.

James Rowlands
James Rowlands
3 years ago
Reply to  Philip May

“good government and right thinking people everywhere”
LOL. A threat to the nutcases currently flavour of the month you mean.

kathleen carr
kathleen carr
3 years ago
Reply to  Philip May

Once labelled as far right the media does not have to cover them correctly, it was apparently alright for candidates to get things chucked over them and comedians even joked about it and it is acceptable for mainstream politicians to trade insults at them.It is interesting that in UK the UKIP , formerly Labour supporters voted Conservative ie an establishment party.

Fraser Bailey
Fraser Bailey
3 years ago
Reply to  Fraser Bailey

Yes, the laziness and stupidity of the media is repulsive. Do they really think all the new arrivals are going to start reading the Guardian and going to the Royal Court? I suppose the increase in violent crime does at least give the media something to write about.

Galeti Tavas
Galeti Tavas
3 years ago
Reply to  Fraser Bailey

‘The Media’ are neither lazy or stupid. They are out to destroy the West as Surely as Genghas Kahn was, and work as hard at it. The question is if they will win this time. The Poles, Hungarians, Russians held them back in the 1200s, and I suppose are doing so again today in some ways, but without our Western support I doubt it will work, the MSM and Left/Liberal forces are the enemy within the gates, the rot in the foundation.

Fraser Bailey
Fraser Bailey
3 years ago
Reply to  Galeti Tavas

Very true, very true.

Johannes Kreisler
Johannes Kreisler
3 years ago
Reply to  Galeti Tavas

Western spelling & pronunciation of historical Mongolian names is not set in stone but assumed at best, so ‘Genghas’ is good enough for me.
Sur enough Genghis wiped out much of my nation back in the day. So badly that we had to invite in other people to repopulate swathes of the country. However, in retrospect of 800+ years, i’d rather choose the good khan over the MSM and any woke toadies of our times. At least the Mongol hordes had style, panache, spirit and dignity.

Derek M
Derek M
3 years ago
Reply to  Fraser Bailey

But they do understand that they (or their children) will reliably vote for the Labour Party. One good reason for Labour’s turbocharging of immigration post 1997

Paul N
Paul N
3 years ago
Reply to  Fraser Bailey

Particularly given the falling birth rate, the housing shortage in the UK has more to do with a lack of housebuilding that with the immigration required to support the economy.

David Stanley
David Stanley
3 years ago
Reply to  Paul N

So, how many houses do we need to build? Are we going to concrete over every square inch of the countryside? Surely anyone can see that the argument ‘we just need to build more houses’ has a logical endpoint.
We can’t keep importing more and more people into this country without destroying the environment. If the economic model we use requires an endless increase in population then it is obviously fatally flawed.

Last edited 3 years ago by David Stanley
Paul N
Paul N
3 years ago
Reply to  David Stanley

That’s absurd. There are other countries with comparable population density, and they manage to house their population without destroying the environment. You don’t need to build miles of white bungalows far into the greenbelt – just sensible quantities of decent quality, reasonable density housing – where the jobs are.

Arnold Grutt
Arnold Grutt
3 years ago
Reply to  Paul N

“There are other countries with comparable population density”

How is ‘population density’ calculated, by a) total land area divided by total population or b) comparable habitable areas summed and then so divided? It makes a huge difference. Most (?) of Britain is literally uninhabitable. Mountains, moors, bogs, islands blasted by unfriendly, over-wet climate etc.

Last edited 3 years ago by Arnold Grutt
H Davies
H Davies
3 years ago
Reply to  Arnold Grutt

Thank heavens for the “mountains, bogs and moorlands” and any other wide open spaces for some freedom from urbanisation and the peoples it contains. Oh wait a minute, governments in all the home nations are busy signing away large tracts of open space so that the “green gospel” merchants can build wind farms and other expressions of the green salvation like rewilding. Not much support for agriculture and other aspects of traditional rural economy because they don’t fit with this weird new vision.

Paul N
Paul N
3 years ago
Reply to  Arnold Grutt

Are you seriously claiming that even London is densely populated by global standards?
The housing shortage is not because we have allowed enough expat workers into the UK to avoid a labour shortage. It’s because we failed to build enough appropriate housing where it is needed, and because we allow developers to waste too many brownfield sites.
If we had economic incentives to develop designated residential areas, and removed the restrictions on local authorities to allow them to build, and if we stopped concentrating on so called “affordable housing” and built a better mix of actually affordable or social housing, we could rapidly address the problem.
Or we could just go on blaming the people who came to the UK to work in our economy. But then we’d still not have enough housing – or workers – or both!

Last edited 3 years ago by Paul N
Johannes Kreisler
Johannes Kreisler
3 years ago
Reply to  Paul N

the immigration required to support the economy.

The immigration from the thirdworld is NOT supporting the economy, Paul. It is a major burden on the economy. And it is the thirdworld immigrants with the obscenely high birthrates, not the “Polish plumbers” who (Poland) have one of the lowest birthrates in Europe already. EU migrants are also highly unlikely to settle here – they work a few years’ shift, then they go home.
Stop conflating things which have nothing to do with one another.

Paul N
Paul N
3 years ago

There are plenty of skilled workers in what we sometimes like to call the third world, you do realise. They have roads and electricity and hospitals and universities and all. And we don’t allow just anyone to waltz into the UK – third world or no. You need to show you’re coming to work in a job that’s in demand. You are allowed to bring your immediate family – but that’s the family of a worker who absolutely is supporting the economy.

Johannes Kreisler
Johannes Kreisler
3 years ago
Reply to  Paul N

There are plenty of skilled workers in what we sometimes like to call the third world, you do realise.

I do realise that. However, there are plenty more of the unskilled, and multiplying rapidly. Ever looked at the birthrates in Africa? The skilled ones are less likely to find themselves to be “surplus to requirement”, so they have lesser urge to emigrate.

They have roads and electricity and hospitals and universities and all.

Yes, i know they got all those things, largely due to colonisation and the subsequent input of “developmental aid”. However, apparently not enough – no matter how many hospitals or educational facilities you throw at them, the explosive population growth vastly outweighs the supply.

And we don’t allow just anyone to waltz into the UK 

Oh yes we do. You don’t seem to be very attuned to daily news, sometimes it’s not a bad idea to switch on the wireless or even the good ol’ BBC News on the telly.

You need to show you’re coming to work in a job that’s in demand. 

Butbutbut – my proof of that fell out of my backpocket while crossing the tunnel or the channel, along with my passport! Ima Hooman Being y’know!!1!

You are allowed to bring your immediate family

… which happens to be my entire village in Uganda, because that’s how we do families there.

but that’s the family of a worker who absolutely is supporting the economy.

Fair enough. But what about all those who are absolutely not supporting the economy but are a major burden on it?

Derek M
Derek M
3 years ago
Reply to  Paul N

We’ve imported 4 million people in less than 20 years and we’re still at over 275000per year (legally). Where do you think they are all going to live? In a cardboard box under Waterloo Bridge? Also, why exactly do you think immigration is required to ‘support the economy’?

Paul N
Paul N
3 years ago
Reply to  Derek M

I was suggesting that migrants, like natives, should be allowed to live in decent quality accommodation, which we could help the economy by actually getting on with building! In one of the world’s richest economies, why would you imagine people need to live in cardboard boxes?
And as for why immigration is needed, ask the industrial leaders who have been lobbying for it. Or Theresa May, who told us as PM that immigration was not going to drop just because we were leaving the EU. Or maybe take a look at your local hospital, next time you’re there (training more staff will take time – and we need medical staff right now, just as we did before Covid).

Dougie Undersub
Dougie Undersub
3 years ago
Reply to  Fraser Bailey

Just as Ukip’s economic policies under Farage were of the left but, to the MSM, anyone who mentions immigration as a problem can only be far-Right.

Paul N
Paul N
3 years ago

I seem to remember that Farage’s first manifesto had stuff about privatising the NHS. He may have realised he was far to the right of his target demographic, or other voices may have toned down the far-right economic policy in subsequent elections.

Marcus Leach
Marcus Leach
3 years ago
Reply to  Paul N

Let me help you with your incorrect recollection.
UKIP’s 2005 manifeto said this:
“compared with other developed countries, Britain is an outlier in two important respects: 1) Our overall health spending per person is lower, 2), our proportion of privately funded healthcare is lower. Private health insurance schemes similar to those in France, Germany and several other countries might provide a valuable supplement to NHS resources.”

Paul N
Paul N
3 years ago
Reply to  Marcus Leach

Thanks, Marcus. So more private healthcare, but no commitment on health spending – unless that commitment was elsewhere in the manifesto?

Paul N
Paul N
3 years ago
Reply to  Marcus Leach

I had a quick look at the 2005 manifesto. Highlights include “Wholesale deregulation,” increased government borrowing – partly to fund immediate tax cuts, encouraging but vague noises on tax and pension reform, more prisons, specious claims that the EU would abolish jury trial, no immigration quotas, changes to internationally agreed obligations to accept refugees, minimum prices for agricultural produce (to replace subsidies), take back control of fisheries (current experience suggests that is harder than it sounds), end cuts to armed forces, “clean coal” and more nuclear power, stop GM crops, higher speed limits, keep the House of Lords, more referendums, end regional devolution, repeal the Human Rights Act, legalise foxhunting, Make GP surgeries open evenings and weekends, remove working time directive protection from doctors, bring back Matron, and indeed, no commitment to raise spending.
Bit of a mixed bag. Not particularly left wing.

Last edited 3 years ago by Paul N
Jeremy Smith
Jeremy Smith
3 years ago

There was nothing cohesive/coherent about UKIP’s economic policies.

Jeffrey Chongsathien
Jeffrey Chongsathien
3 years ago
Reply to  Fraser Bailey

Time to start using the phrase “far correct”.

Paul N
Paul N
3 years ago

I think perhaps you’re a bit “left” – besides, aren’t they usually the ones who want to change the language?

Last edited 3 years ago by Paul N
Alex Lekas
Alex Lekas
3 years ago

Young people in France are now disproportionately prepared to vote for the Europhobic Le Pen and dismiss Macron’s arguments for a strong France in a strong Europe.
or maybe young people think the French govt should first and foremost concern itself with France and French people instead of Europe or the parade of immigrants who have altered the landscape. I’m sure in the author’s view that this represents some sort of horrible ism, but even Macron has taken note of people who are living in France but hostile to its culture.

Jeremy Smith
Jeremy Smith
3 years ago
Reply to  Alex Lekas

Arab migration to France has nothing to do with Europe.
I have yet to meet a Frenchmen that complains about Italian/Portuguese migration to France.

Paul N
Paul N
3 years ago
Reply to  Jeremy Smith

At least they’ll now be able to do something about the English people flooding over La Manche and buying up their houses.

Andrew Thompson
Andrew Thompson
3 years ago
Reply to  Paul N

Paul go and make yourself a cup of tea there’s a good boy.

Paul N
Paul N
3 years ago

I made some coffee. I don’t think it’s helping:-)

A Spetzari
A Spetzari
3 years ago

France has been under martial law for the past 5-6 years due to the Islamic Terrorist threat, and the Covid restrictions will have exacerbated this.
I am actually quite surprised that there has not been a shift before now to be honest.

Galeti Tavas
Galeti Tavas
3 years ago
Reply to  A Spetzari

The funny thing is the Islamic Terrorists are not the threat, merely a huge news story, but have no real impact. The problem is the non-terrorists migrants who have not brought skills, money, education. They are the actual problem. I work in the trades in USA. Back in the 1980s – 1990s the Black workers did a great deal of the low skilled construction work, not they have been almost completely replaced by Mexican migrants, the white constructions reduced by about half by the Mexicans. Trades work used to pay the bills, it was a way to make an actual living, now it is not, unless you are a real professional tradesman rather than just a worker your pay is nothing from the migrants who do not support a family, keep their own house, they share vehicles, eat cheap, and so on. They destroyed the Work for a huge amount of native workers!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

What cheap pay, from lone male migrants who live collectively, mostly for cash under the table, has done to native workers at the low skill level has been CRIMINAL!!!!!!!!! The trades no longer pay enough for the unskilled to afford a life with family, it is just enough for low income, single, men to make, but not enough for Westerners and families. Noways native unskilled workers with families need some sort of welfare to get by – because of the illegal and legal migration of the unskilled has destroyed pay!

Paul N
Paul N
3 years ago
Reply to  A Spetzari

They had a state of emergency until November 2017, due to terrorist attacks, and a health emergency from March 2020. It’s not exactly martial law though (but if you think a face mask is a muzzle you will probably think it is).

D Ward
D Ward
3 years ago

I tried to post this earlier, but it’s stuck in purgatory. The offending word follows the word knee, and I’ll omit it in this repost. But I’ll give you a clue, it has 4 letters and rhymes with work.oh, it begins with the letter j.
“Phew. I was worried with the initial headline, which didn’t add the knee-(insert word) adjective “far” when describing the party as right wing.
But I needn’t have feared. Second time round the author nailed it: “ The figures are disturbing if you fear a French lurch to the far-Right next year. ”

Claire D
Claire D
3 years ago
Reply to  D Ward

I like “stuck in purgatory” that’s very good, mine “languish in moderation”, or at least they used to, now they just disappear for eternity.

Hugh R
Hugh R
3 years ago

I stopped reading this guff at “in Britain’s case anti-European nationalism; ”

Still not let it go after 5 years?
Try ‘pro-democracy.’ or ‘anti- federalist’

Frederick B
Frederick B
3 years ago

Lucky France, to have such an alternative to the usual suspects!

Jeremy Smith
Jeremy Smith
3 years ago

LePen can win election if ONLY she has a coherent policy about EU and the economy. She doesn’t – that is the problem.
There is a reason why populist parties (even well run ones like Danish people parties) top up at 20-25%. Middle classes will not vote for them unless the parties have the necessary internal discipline (YES! – keep to the message) and realistic economic (and EU) policies.

Francis MacGabhann
Francis MacGabhann
3 years ago

There’s not great mystery about Le Pen’s support. We are at the end of a 50 year old sociological curve wherein it was supposed that the left was destined by some ineffable force of history to inherit the Earth and usher in the final age of permanent Utopia. Well, it wasn’t and it’s not going to and people are wising up to it. Everybody’s sick of the left and it’s coming out in the wash. That’s all there is to it.

D Ward
D Ward
3 years ago

A whole lifetime? A whole 10 lifetimes, if you are a fish in Scotland

Last edited 3 years ago by D Ward
Galeti Tavas
Galeti Tavas
3 years ago
Reply to  D Ward

A Somali refugee, a Scottish fish, two things the French want to bring back to France.

kathleen carr
kathleen carr
3 years ago
Reply to  D Ward

Well I think the joke is on us now.Did you want your towns and cities to resemble anywhere but Northern Europe and not only pay for the pleasure but risk getting arrested if you complain too much ?

D Ward
D Ward
3 years ago
Reply to  kathleen carr

Wow.

have a lovely evening. You clearly need it.

Andrew Russell
Andrew Russell
3 years ago

“In both cases, that is partly driven by contempt for the certainties of an older generation — in Britain’s case anti-European nationalism; in France’s case, pro-European memories of two world wars.”
Yes, I’m sure the French have fond memories of being invaded by Germany – at least they were Europeans.

Last edited 3 years ago by Andrew Russell
James Newman
James Newman
3 years ago

 in Britain’s case anti-European nationalism

There is no significant anti-European nationalism in the UK. British people have been going on holiday in Europe in substantial numbers for some 60 years now. A trip round the average British supermarket will show a wide availability of European cheeses and wines, far greater than can be found in France, Spain and Italy. UK drivers buy foreign-produced cars in numbers that would horrify Citroen/Peugeot/Renault.
But then I suspect you are confusing anti-European nationalism with anti-EU sentiment, a basic error made by many, some deliberately.

Derek M
Derek M
3 years ago

Has the author considered the possibility that they just agree with her?

Arnold Grutt
Arnold Grutt
3 years ago

The UK has never shown ‘anti-European nationalism’ because it isn’t a ‘nation’. In fact the actual nationalists most involved with the UK, Sinn Feinn and SNP, are both pro-Europe.

Last edited 3 years ago by Arnold Grutt
John Standing
John Standing
3 years ago
Reply to  Arnold Grutt

Those are civic nationalists, not authentic ethnic nationalists.

michaelrigby
michaelrigby
3 years ago

The French people are fed up with Macron, a posturing, immature little Napoleon with an ego the size of a house.
WHY can’t a right wing government do better?
The answer is of course it can, if the left wing media don’t ban it’s messages, and hide it’s policies.
France needs a second revolution
So does the rest of Europe.

Paul N
Paul N
3 years ago
Reply to  michaelrigby

You’re saying that Macron’s government would have fixed the country, if only they hadn’t been cancelled by the media?

Pierre Mauboussin
Pierre Mauboussin
3 years ago

An extremely facile account of what is going on in France, as well as a contentious representation of Brexit. The difference between the younger group and the 25-24 year old age group is quite simple: the younger group does not yet realize that their future lies in being conscripts into the army of reserve labor (the unemployed). Look at the unemployment rates among the youth in France and look at the only slightly above poverty level wages of those who do land jobs. More of Macron bloviating about Europe or France’s great responsibilities isn’t going to change that. Only Le Pen is talking about undoing the macroeconomic damage caused by France joining the Euro. Look at Germany, too, where in 2017 the Afd got almost the same support from the 25-24 year old group as from the 60-69 year old group. What is driving the move to extremist parties is the stifling homogeneity of the destructive macroeconomic policies supported by the mainstream parties. Most of those voting for Le Pen or the AfD want a government that addresses how they have been left behind by globalist neoliberal economic policies. Characterizing their primarily economic concerns as fascistic racism is a slander driving them even more to the fringe.

Last edited 3 years ago by Pierre Mauboussin
D Ward
D Ward
3 years ago

Phew. I was worried with the initial headline, which didn’t add the knee-jerk adjective “far” when describing the party as right wing.

But I needn’t have feared. Second time round the author nailed it: “ The figures are disturbing if you fear a French lurch to the far-Right next year. ”

Johannes Kreisler
Johannes Kreisler
3 years ago

As many before me pointed out, it’s not “far right“. Not even quite “rightwing”, MLP / RN being pretty leftish on economical matters.
That out of the way, i’ve read it years ago that France has the demographic thing in reverse – unlike in the UK, the youth is more radically antileft than the middle-aged. I think the reason for it is very simple: language and culture. Sadly, the UK is downstream to all the rubbish what’s floating out of american campuses, whereas the French are still relatively impervious to all that scheiße. Unfortunately, this became an unforeseen consequence of colonising North America – the shared language comes back to bite the English in the ar$e. Would’ve been better if the USA went with German as the ‘official language’, the Germans are already pretty much a lost cause so the damage would’ve been a lot less significant.

Last edited 3 years ago by Johannes Kreisler
Wilfred Davis
Wilfred Davis
3 years ago

The figures are disturbing if you fear a French lurch to the far-Right next year.

This is not the first time that I have had to ask here whether the party in question actually is ‘far-Right’, and why anyone should be disturbed that a lawful party might appeal to voters in a democracy.

Does the author not realise that his brand of lofty superiority (or virtue-signalling by expressing contempt and disgust for the malodorous voters) actually increases the appeal of the very kind of party that he vilifies?