Putin targets Donbass for ‘May 9 victory’, Macron says

PARIS: Are polls often wrong? The candidates lacking momentum are crying out loud and clear even if, since the Le Pen earthquake of 2002, the presidential results have differed little from the projections, despite the persistent blind spot of abstention.

1995: the overrated Chirac vote

In April 1995, one week before the first round, the institutes gave a comfortable lead to Jacques Chirac, with 26.1% of voting intentions. Follow the socialist Lionel Jospin, with 20.1% and Edouard Balladur (16.9%).

Surprise on the evening of April 23: Jacques Chirac and Lionel Jospin are qualified for the second round but the balance of power is not at all in line with projections: the socialist candidate comes first (17.7%) and Jacques Chirac is not ahead its right-wing rival only by a short margin (15.9% against 14.1%).

Stunned, Mr. Chirac considers “extraordinary” that the pollsters “were planted as it is not allowed”. “We have a problem measuring the real political state of the country”, concedes at the time Stéphane Vacher (Louis Harris).

2002: the industrial accident

In April 2002, in the final sprint of the first round, the polls all give Jacques Chirac and Lionel Jospin in the lead, between 18 to 19%, far ahead of Jean-Marie Le Pen (12.5 to 14%).

“Thunderbolt” on April 21: Jacques Chirac obtains 19.9%, but it is Jean-Marie Le Pen (16.9%) who reaches the second round, ahead of Lionel Jospin (16.2%).

“2002 is an industrial accident”, analyzes for AFP today Martial Foucault, director of Cevipof. “The pollsters were unable to estimate the then very strong inhibition around the Le Pen vote”.

At the time, polls were still done a lot by telephone where “there is human interaction with an interviewer who can create discomfort,” said the political scientist.

2007, 2012, 2017: a ranking respected despite some deviations

During the three following presidential elections, the results in the first and second rounds are generally in line with the polls.

In 2007, Nicolas Sarkozy, ranked first in all the pre-first round surveys with more than 28%, found himself in pole position, with three points more (31.2%), followed by Ségolène Royal, who finished at 25 9%, after being credited with 24% in the polls.

The ranking will also be respected for François Bayrou and Jean-Marie Le Pen, respectively third and fourth. The pollsters will still have overestimated the Le Pen vote by around 3.5 points a few days before the first round.

During the Hollande-Sarkozy duel of 2012, the socialist candidate, credited with 28% on average the days preceding the first round, won with 28.6%. His rival won 27.2% of the vote, about one point more than the polls gave him.

Marine Le Pen, 3rd, Jean-Luc Mélenchon, 4th and François Bayrou, 5th, also finished in the place predicted by the institutes, even if Mr. Mélenchon was credited with around 3 points more

In 2017, the latest polls are also right: Emmanuel Macron and Marine Le Pen finish in the second round, followed by François Fillon and Jean-Luc Mélenchon.

The score of the candidate En Marche! (24.0%) is in line with projections while Marine Le Pen (21.3%) was slightly overvalued in the polls.

“We observe a change after 2002 in the way pollsters weigh voting intentions,” said AFP Flora ChanvriI-Ligneel, statistician at Cevipof, who also mentions the publication of margins of error, mandatory since 2016.

Blind spots and criticism

Since the crash of 2002, however, the institutes continue to have great difficulty in measuring the participation rate.

“Voting intentions are not measured on all respondents but only on the part of them who said they were certain to vote”, assures Martial Foucault, pointing to the risk that the polls first reflect the opinion of politicized people.

Voices are also raised against the proliferation of polls several months before the election, at the risk of “manufacturing” public opinion.

“There are polls all the time, deplores Christian Brousse, director of the very critical Observatory of polls. The result is that it blurs the electoral game by guiding certain voters”.

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Putin targets Donbass for ‘May 9 victory’, Macron says

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