According to an Ipsos-Sopra Steria survey, in partnership with the Center d’études de la vie politique française (Cevipof), the Jean-Jaurès Foundation and the Institut Montaigne, carried out for the newspaper The world and made public this Tuesday, the divide between left and right is more felt in France. According to him, 38% of the French population considers the notions of left and right as still valid and relevant, a score at the highest for five years.
For Benjamin Morel, Doctor of Political Science at ENS, the health and economic crisis of the coronavirus could help bring this cleavage up to date, even if this trend was already evident.
How did the coronavirus crisis put the left-right divide back on the political front?
The solutions to this crisis did not come from the new political world, namely the Republic on the move or the National Rally. Consequence: we have observed a relegation of this LREM-RN cleavage which seemed nevertheless to be imposed since 2017. It took place for the benefit of more traditional debates: should more State or more liberalize be needed to help and revive the country ? Questions that brought out the classic divide between left and right.
The crisis also made the old political parties more audible, while the Socialist Party and the Republicans had become almost invisible. Because with such a health crisis, all the oppositions were able to have more voice in the chapter and be heard.
Finally, the crisis favored the bonus for graduates, which de facto strengthened the traditional left and right during regional and municipal elections. The parties are therefore stronger than they would have been without the crisis.
With “whatever the cost”, massive state aid, has this crisis also put the left on the chessboard as a political response?
State interventionism is certainly perceived as “leftist” by the population, but it also falls within the Gaullist tradition. And when Emmanuel Macron uses it for the coronavirus, I don’t think he sees it as software from the left.
The crisis has contributed to a certain nostalgia. Can the left and the right benefit from it?
There is a nostalgia for the world before with the crisis, a much more marked out and reassuring universe with a political staff perceived as more competent because more installed. This should not be overestimated, however, because if there is a very strong need for protection, it goes through known and identified figures from the world before. However, the left and the classic right do not embody this competence and this nostalgia, because they present new and unidentified candidates. There is no Juppé or Cazeneuve, for example. Today, a substantial part of the electorate does not know Pécresse or Hidalgo well. The candidates play relatively little on it, the nostalgia is thus badly exploited.
Could the fact that the RN and LREM miss their subjects during this health crisis have played in favor of the left and the right?
The crisis has disadvantaged the RN, because it does not stand out on these subjects. The RN has delegated the protest to other minority parties, such as the Patriots, because criticizing the government too head-on on positions shared by the RN electorate would be counterproductive.
On the other hand, it is necessary to qualify the fact that the population thinks that the government is wrong. This was the case in the first and second waves with the German example in comparison, but since Germany suffered a very violent second and third wave, the idea that no one would have done better than the current government is dominant in opinion. The latter, which considers certain decisions such as non-containment to be courageous.
Is the crisis the only factor explaining this return of classic ideological markers?
No, the crisis alone is not enough to explain this rise in the left-right divide. We are approaching the presidential election, so there is naturally a return of this divide during this period. The presidential election reactivates embryos of political identities in certain voters. Macron, with a view to re-election, also protects his center-right, but also his center-left, so certain ideas are reinfused into his politics.
To see if this return of the left and the right lasts, or if it is just episodic for the presidential election.