Support for French President Emmanuel Macron’s centrist party has dropped, with its lead over Marine Le Pen’s Rassemblement national ahead of next May’s European Parliament elections now only three percentage points, a poll published on Wednesday showed.
The upcoming elections are already gearing up to be a bitter battle between centrist, pro-Europe parties like Mr Macron’s La République en Marche, and hardline right-wing and far-right groups like Rassemblement national that have pledged to upend the political status quo following a decade marred by financial and immigration crises.
The survey, conducted by Ifop-Fiducial for Paris Match, Sud Radio and CNews, showed Mr Macron’s party garnering 20 per cent of the French vote in the European elections, down from 23 per cent in the last survey in June.
Support for Mrs Le Pen’s Rassemblement national, formerly known as the Front National, also slipped but by less – from 19 per cent to 17 per cent –, narrowing the gap between the two parties.
Meanwhile far-left leader Jean-Luc Mélenchon’s La France Insoumise has increased its support among French voters. The leftist party gained three percentage points to 14 per cent.
Support for the conservative Les Républicains party remained steady at 15 per cent.
The poll follows a tricky summer for Mr Macron, whose reputation has been badly dented by a scandal over his bodyguard, a grim economic forecast and the shock resignation of his popular environment minister, Nicolas Hulot.
“The ballot will be difficult for the president,” an unnamed ministerial source told Paris Match. “I have a feeling that the European elections will be unlike any other, because people are aware that Europe could die. That thought alone is enough to mobilise voters.”
The poll comes just a day after a separate Ifop survey showed that Mr Macron’s popularity has plunged to 31 per cent this month from 41 per cent in August, a new low for the young centrist that is below that of his predecessor François Hollande at the same point in his presidency.
An analysis of national polls conducted by Reuters in July showed eurosceptic parties on the right were likely to expand their parliamentary powers next May, potentially winning 15 to 20 per cent of the 705 seats in the European assembly.
The European elections are important both as an indicator or voter morale and because they can determine who leads the major EU institutions, including the European Commission, the bloc’s civil service.
The Ifop poll of 1,374 people was conducted in two stages: the first round of interviews were carried out between June 25-27 and the second round between August 30-31.