The Champs Elysees in Paris.

Before the presidential election: The French are more politically polarized than other Europeans

Neither Emmanuel Macron nor Marine Le Pen represent one of the large, centrist political parties of France. But whoever will win – one of the greatest challenges may well be reconciling the French electorate. Our EU wide survey shows that politically speaking, the French are more polarized and more pessimistic than other Europeans.

He once was politically responsible as Minister of Economic Affairs and stands for a strong "yes" to Europe. She leads a party, which for decades fights against liberal democracy, and wants France out of the EU and the Euro. When the French go to the polls on sunday, the candidates differ very much. Emmanuel Macron or Marine Le Pen - social-liberal centre or extreme right.

Our representative, Europe wide survey from the series "eupinions" shows: Macron against Le Pen is the result of a longer development. Actually in France the political gap between the people is deeper than in the rest of Europe.

Compared with the EU, in France the political center is considerably smaller and the political margins are more pronounced. And in total the French are looking to the future with more skepticism than in other European countries.

20 percent of the French openly call themselves "right-" or "left-wing extreme"

In the EU 62 percent of the people see themselves belonging to the political centre. That means they call themselves "centre left" or "centre right" and for example are voting for Social Democratic, Liberal or Conservative parties. In France only 36 percent see themselves belonging to the political centre. Furthermore in the EU in total only 7 percent place themselves on the edges of the political spectrum (4 percent right-wing extreme, 3 percent left-wing extreme). In France 20 percent call themselves "extreme" (14 percent right-wing extreme, 3 percent left-wing extreme). 

When there is a split between irreconcilable political camps, it could be crippling for politics and for society, Aart De Geus, Chairman of our Executive Board, comments the French results of the survey. "What's important in a democracy is that we can work with each other, rather than against each other", De Geus emphasizes.

"It's not about who complains most loudly, but who can suggest the best solutions and get them working via consensus."

Aart De Geus, Chairman of the Bertelsmann Stiftung Executive Board

Bonjour Tristesse: The French are looking more pessimistically to the future than other Europeans

EU wide 62 percent of the people, who see themselves belonging to the political centre, are satisfied with the current development of their home country (centre left 32 percent, centre-right 30). In France only 28 percent have that view (18 percent centre-left, 10 centre-right).

Mostly dissatisfied are the supporters of the French right-wing extremists. Here 70 percent are displeased with their own economic situation and only 4 percent are satisfied with the current situation in France.

Majority of the French supports the EU membership and the Euro

A majority of the French sees their countries membership in the European Union and the Euro as their currency positive. Left, centre-left, centre-right or right: Between 65 and 81 percent back the EU and the Euro. Only the right-wing extremists refuse both.

According to Isabell Hoffmann, co-author of the study and European expert at Bertelsmann Stiftung, these figures are remarkable in light of the French election campaign: "Taking an anti-EU position in election campaigns is risky. That is evident from this election too. Initially, politicians can draw plenty of attention to themselves with this position, but then if they are too radical, they can end up scaring off more voters than they win over. That has been the lesson from the last elections in Austria and the Netherlands," she noted. Many people are dissatisfied with day-to-day EU politics. But it would be a mistake to think that the majority wants to leave the EU.

Please find the complete survey here.