How much are the polls understating the far-right leader?
With the immigrant background of front runner in the race for the French Presidency, Nicolas Sarkozy, being made into an issue by Jean-Marie Le Pen the polls have been reporting a steady rise in support for the Front National leader.
Recent surveys have had him in the region 13% to 17% which is substantially up on where he was at this stage in the 2002 elections. Last time, it will be recalled, the left wing vote splintered and Le Pen managed to squeeze a place in the top two thus putting him into the run-off ballot two weeks later.
A big part of that was because all the polls seriously understated Le Pen’s support and supporters of a range of left-wing candidates thought they had the luxury of not voting for the Socialist’s Jospin in the first round.
If the polls are once again failing to pick up the support levels enjoyed by the extreme right wing leader then it’s possible that we could see a repeat of five years ago.
At the moment Sarkozy is leading with 26-28%, Royal is averaging about 25% while the centrist, Bayrou is at 20-21 percent. With Le Pen getting up to 17% it does not require that much of a level of poll understatement for him to be challenging for a top two position.
With the two top finishers due to face each other in a May 6 run-off the situation could be dangerous for all three front-runners.
Although Sarkozy looks just about safe it is not inconceivable that some of his support could go to the far right especially in the light of Le Pen’s new line of attack.
The Bayrou-Royal clash is really interesting. Left inclined voters might decide that the best way of stopping Sarkozy or impeding Le Pen’s progress is to switch to Bayrou.
A factor that might make it harder for Le Pen is that there are not the same number of candidates running as last time so reducing the potential for splintering.
If you want to bet on Le Pen getting to the final two then the Spreadfair market is the place to go. This gives 10 points to the runner up in the race and 25 points to the winner. Le Pen is currently at 0.6 which is the equivalent of about 15/1 to make the run-off. Given the way the polls are moving that looks like an attractive price.