French Politics

, Volume 13, Issue 2, pp 121–140 | Cite as

A red letter day: Investigating the renaissance of the French far left in the 2012 presidential election

  • Pavlos Vasilopoulos
  • Laurie Beaudonnet
  • Bruno Cautrès
Original Article


This article extends the current literature on European far-left parties by investigating the sociodemographic, ideological and attitudinal profile of the French far-left voter in the 2012 Presidential Elections. Particular emphasis is placed on the impact of the economic crisis on the sudden electoral rise of the French far left and factors such as economic hardship, change of economic conditions, attitudes toward economic inequality and Euroscepticism. Results suggest that explanations based purely on economic factors fall short of explaining the totality of the French far-left vote, especially if compared with the other parties of the French far left. Instead, attitudes toward Europe and post-materialism are central in the understanding of the renaissance of the French far left. On the basis of these findings we reach a number of conclusions regarding the future of far-left parties in France and Europe.


far left economic crisis France minor party 


  1. Anderson, C. (2000) Economic voting and political context: A comparative perspective. Electoral Studies 19 (2–3): 151–170.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Beaudonnet, L. (2014) A threatening horizon: The impact of the welfare state on support for Europe. JCMS: Journal of Common Market Studies, Article first published online: 24 September.Google Scholar
  3. Beaudonnet, L. and Vasilopoulos, P. (2014) Green parties in hard times: The case of the EELV in the 2012 French presidential election. Party Politics 20 (2): 275–285.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Bedock, C. and Vasilopoulos, P. (2015) Economic hardship and extreme voting under the economic crisis: A comparison between Italy and Greece. Revue Européenne des Sciences Sociales 53 (1): 177–196.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Bowyer, B.T. and Vail, M.I. (2011) Economic insecurity, the social market economy, and support for the German left. West European Politics 34 (4): 683–705.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Boy, D. and Mayer, N. (1993) The changing French voter. In: D. Boy and N. Mayer (eds.) The French Voter Decides. Ann Arbor, MI: University of Michigan Press, pp. 167–84.Google Scholar
  7. Brinegar, A.P. and Jolly, S. (2005) Location, location, location: National contextual factors and public support for European integration. European Union Politics 6 (2): 155–180.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Brouard, S., Grossman, E. and Sauger, N. (2007) Les Français contre l’Europe?: les sens du référendum du 29 mai 2005. Presses de Sciences Po.Google Scholar
  9. Cautrès, B. (2005) Les clivages socio-politiques sur l’intégration européenne et le vote du 29 mai 2005. Cahiers du CEVIPOF 42: 142–155.Google Scholar
  10. Cautrès, B. (2012) Multidimensionality of EU attitudes in France: An Issue for the Understanding of the Politicization of Attitudes towards the EU. European Integration online Papers (EIoP), 16(2).Google Scholar
  11. Cautrès, B. (2013) Le vote Mélenchon : Le Poids de l’Héritage Communiste et les Limites d’Une Dynamique. In: P. Perrineau (ed.) Le Vote Normal. Paris, France: Presses de Sciences Po, pp. 110–131.Google Scholar
  12. Crespy, A. (2009) La cristallisation des résistances de gauche à l’intégration européenne: les logiques de mobilisation dans la campagne référendaire française de 2005. Revue internationale de politique comparée 15 (4): 589–603.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Dalem, A. (2005) L’économie, le peuple et la Constitution. Le « non » français en perspective. Raisons politiques 20 (4): 73.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Dalton, R.J. (2013) Citizen politics: Public opinion and political parties in advanced industrial democracies. CQ Press.Google Scholar
  15. Dalton, R.J., Scarrow, S.E. and Cain, B.E. (2004) Advanced democracies and the new politics. Journal of Democracy 15 (1): 124–138.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Dargent, C. (2010) La fille aînée de l’église dans l’isoloir : religion et politique en France et en Europe. In: D. Boy, B. Cautrès and N. Sauger eds. Les Français : des Européens comme les autres ? Paris, France: Presses de Sciences Po, Académique, pp. 181–213.Google Scholar
  17. Dow, J.K. and Endersby, J.W. (2004) Multinomial probit and multinomial logit: A comparison of choice models for voting research. Electoral studies 23 (1): 107–122.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Dupoirier, E. (2008) Le Parti socialiste et la gauche: l’implacable spirale de l’échec’. In: P. Perrineau Le vote de rupture, les élections présidentielle et législatives d’avril-juin. Les Presses de Sciences-Po.Google Scholar
  19. Gougou, F. and Martin, P. (2014) Gauche, droite et vote populaire. Commentaire 1/ 2014 (145): 45–54.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Gougou, F. (2012) La Droitisation du Vote des Ouvriers en France. Désalignement, Réalignement et Renouvellement des Générations. In: J.M. De Waele and M. Vieira (eds.) Une Droitisation de la Classe Ouvrière en Europe ? Économica, pp. 142–172.Google Scholar
  21. Hainsworth, P. (2004) The extreme right in France: The rise and rise of Jean‐Marie Le Pen’s front national. Representation 40 (2): 101–114.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Halikiopoulou, D., Kyriaki, N. and Vasilopoulou, S. (2012) The paradox of nationalism: The common denominator of radical right and radical left Euroscepticism. European Journal of Political Research 51 (4): 504–539.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Himmelweit, H.T., Biberian, M.J. and Stockdale, J. (1978) Memory for past vote: Implications of a study of bias in recall. British Journal of Political Science 8 (3): 365–375.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Hobolt, S.B. and Brouard, S. (2010) Contesting the European Union? Why the Dutch and the French rejected the European Constitution. Political Research Quarterly 64 (2): 309–322.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Hooghe, L., Marks, G. and Wilson, C.J. (2002) Does left/right structure party positions on European integration? Comparative Political Studies 35 (8): 965–989.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Inglehart, R. (1990) Culture Shift in Advanced Industrial Society. Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
  27. Inglehart, R. (2008) Changing values among western publics from 1970 to 2006. West European Politics 31 (2): 130–146.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Lewis-Beck, M.S. (1984) ‘France: The stalled electorate’ electoral change. in R.J. Dalton, S.C. Flanagan and P.A. Beck (eds.) Advanced Industrial Democracies. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, pp. 425–448.Google Scholar
  29. Lewis‐Beck, M.S. (1997) Who’s the chef? Economic voting under a dual executive. European Journal of Political Research 31 (3): 315–325.Google Scholar
  30. Lewis-Beck, M.S., Nadeau, R. and Belanger, E. (2012) French Presidential Elections. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.Google Scholar
  31. Lewis-Beck, M.S. and Stegmaier, M. (2007) Economic models of voting. In: R.J. Dalton and H.D. Klingemann (eds.) The Oxford Handbook of Political Behavior. Oxford University Press, Oxford 518–537.Google Scholar
  32. March, L. and Mudde, C. (2005) What’s left of the radical left? The European radical left after 1989: Decline and mutation. Comparative European Politics 3 (1): 23–49.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. March, L. and Rommerskirchen, C. (2015) Out of left field? Explaining the variable electoral success of european radical left parties. Party Politics 21 (1): 40–53.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Mayer, N. (2011) Why extremes don’t meet: Le Pen and Besancenot voters in the 2007 French presidential election. French Politics, Culture & Society 29 (3): 101–120.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Mayer, N. (2013) From Jean-Marie to Marine Le Pen: Electoral change on the far right. Parliamentary Affairs 66 (1): 160–178.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Nadeau, R., Bélanger, E., Lewis-Beck, M.S., Cautrès, B. and Foucault, M. (2012) Le Vote des Français de Mitterrand à Sarkozy. Paris, France: Presses de Sciences Po.Google Scholar
  37. Perrineau, P. (2008) Le vote de rupture: les élections présidentielles et législatives d’avril-juin 2007. Les Presses de Sciences Po.Google Scholar
  38. Shields, J. (2013) Marine Le Pen and the ‘New’ FN: A Change of Style or of Substance? Parliamentary Affairs 66 (1): 179–196.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Sperber, N. (2010) Three million trotskyists? Explaining extreme left voting in France in the 2002 presidential election. European Journal of Political Research 49 (3): 359–392.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Taggart, P. (1998) A touchstone of dissent: Euroscepticism in contemporary Western European party systems. European Journal of Political Research 33 (3): 363–388.Google Scholar
  41. Taggart, P. and Szczerbiak, A. (2004) Contemporary Euroscepticism in the party systems of the European Union candidate states of Central and Eastern Europe. European Journal of Political Research 43 (1): 1–27.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Tiberj, V. (2013) Values and the votes from mitterrand to hollande: The rise of the two-axis politics. Parliamentary Affairs 66 (1): 69–86.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Van Der Eijk, C. and Niemöller, B. (2008) Recall Accuracy and its Determinants. In: K. Arzheimer and J. Evans (eds.) Electoral Behavior, Volume 4: Debates and Methodology Los Angeles, CA: Sage, pp. 232–280.Google Scholar
  44. Visser, M., Lubbers, M., Kraaykamp, G. and Jaspers, E. (2014) Support for radical left ideologies in Europe. European Journal of Political Research 53 (3): 541–558.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Palgrave Macmillan, a division of Macmillan Publishers Ltd 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Pavlos Vasilopoulos
    • 1
  • Laurie Beaudonnet
    • 2
  • Bruno Cautrès
    • 3
  1. 1.Centre de Recherches Politiques (CEVIPOF)ParisFrance
  2. 2.University of MontrealMontréalCanada
  3. 3.CNRS – Centre de Recherches Politiques (CEVIPOF)ParisFrance

Personalised recommendations