By Eric Kaufmann, The Unherd
Issues like Ukraine gave the technocratic President the upper hand over Le Pen
The results of the French election showed a resounding Macron victory. Yet Marine Le Pen increased her share of the vote in the final runoff from 34% in 2017 to 42% in 2021. This score in turn dwarfed her father’s shocking 18% performance in 2002 which brought a million demonstrators out on the streets. Though Macron suffered from incumbency and a weak economy, he benefited from the fact that many of the issues that favour national populism were in abeyance.
For instance, research shows that when immigration is a high-ranking priority for voters, national populist parties benefit. On issues where people trust technocratic expertise, such as foreign policy, combatting Covid or managing the economy, fewer voters look to populists. These issues tend not to be prioritised by populist voters, nor do they predict populist voting. Populists attempting to seize on the Covid issue have fallen flat.