Benchmarking Recent Events in the 2017 France Presidential Election

I’d like to depart from our usual American setting and travel across the Atlantic to the birthplace of modern republics, France. The top three contenders — Marine Le Pen (26.65%), Emmanuel Macron (25.25%) and François Fillon (18.95%) — are now all involved in formal investigations into the conduct of themselves or close friends/family. Although no charges are severe as those of Les Republicains candidate Fillon, who is reported to have possibly given fake jobs to his family, could these three “scandals” signal a shakeup for the upcoming contest? How can we track that?

Enter my forecast of the 2017 France presidential election, which has been updating daily for roughly a month and a half but is especially useful in the current uncertain political environment. The model (which is explained in detail via the link above) provides some useful information about these recent events.

On a data-driven front, it suits us to primarily analyze the change in public polling numbers for the first round of the election. Though later we can see implications in second round polling as well (for the initiated, recall that France’s election occurs in two parts).

On March 1, Les Republicaines candidate François Fillon was polling at 21% in the first round of the election. After being mired by the controversy of his #FakeJobs scandal, Fillon had dropped to roughly 20% by March 14. That day, he was formally charged for the crimes, and since he has dropped further to 18.95%. We also see this drop in his chances of winning the election, where his win probability has declined from 30% to 12% in the past 19 days.

It is clear that Fillon is bleeding, and he has yet to treat his wound. But where are his supporters going after abandoning LR? It is possible that Fillon’s disaffected voters could be flocking further right, and Marine Le Pen (nationalist and anti-EU candidate for the French National Front) has risen in the polls by about 0.5% in the past month. But it might make more sense to some that these supporters are going third party. Specifically, to Emmanuel Macron.

Macron (centrist candidate who started his own party, En Marche!, for the 2017 election) is recently being regarded as the front-runner in the election, something the polls agree with. Macron has gained the support of nearly 5.25% of voters in the past month, largely thanks to the endorsement from center-left candidate Bayrou. However, the effect (or, in political science talk, the “bump”) from that endorsement is likely to have stabilized by now. So what else than a Fillon fallout could explain the recent inklings of another surge in #Macronmentum? It could be simple polling variance — as polls often bounce around and thus this would mean nothing — but, because the trend has occurred for roughly a week now a surge also seems likely. Fillon supporters could very well be moving to Macron. This is good news for the young socially-liberal fiscally-moderate candidate, but is not nearly necessary as he has a massive 20% point lead in the second round of the election, should he be chosen. Couple with the fact that his odds are 85% to face off with Le Pen in round 2, the past month have been very kind to Emmanuel Macron, and the next month might be even better.

Speaking of round 2, we also observe evidence of a Fillon fallout in his matchup against Le Pen, where he has decreased from a 30% lead in January, to a 20% lead in February, to a 13% lead today. If I were Marine, I would be gunning for a boxing match with the him, not Macron. Recent trends indicate that this is likely to continue to be true.

So there you have it. Polls contain evidence of a shift from Fillon and Bayrou to Macron in the public, with an accompanying a major shift in election odds. We’re 34 days out from the first round of the election and two clear leaders — and a very clear winner — are emerging.

That being said, there’s still a fair amount of uncertainty in the race. As I briefly cover in the methodology for my forecast model, we can expect anywhere from 1.6% (or less) to 5% (or more) polling error in the first contest. That could turn a Macron advantage into a Fillon blowout, or a Le Pen lean to a crumbling France National Front. Only time will tell.

Until then, follow along with election updates on my twitter and make sure you sign up for my newsletter to get notifications of recent posts.

See you next time,

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Thanks for reading today everyone. Tune in to my twitter for updates and make sure you sign up for my newsletter to get notifications of recent posts.


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