France: Muslims give more support to Socialists

A study by Ifop for La Croix finds that the French Socialist Party rules among Muslims.

The survey shows the political profile of the French Muslims as close to the Left, critical of Nicolas Sarkozy and regarding François Bayrou with new sympathy. In 2004 the first study of its kind already revealed French Muslim sympathies for the Left. Today this tendency is still confirmed and established.

In four years, however, the political affinities of Muslims have known appreciable change, accompanying the jolts of actuality, from the riots of the banlieues of 2005 to the Presidential election of 2007. The trend thus gives advantage to the Socialist Party, supported by the majority of French Muslims. More than double the rest of the electoral body.

Jérôme Fourquet, who ran the study for Ifop, says that this position was confirmed after the 2005 riots and was translated into the electoral office in the last presidential elections, that saw Ségolène Royal realize remarkable results in the suburbs.

If the attraction of the extreme left is diminishing, after a peak during the presidential election, it however remains clearly stronger among Muslims than among the rest of the population and reinforces the image of a group strongly gained by the opposition. Adding the results of the Socialist Party, those of the extreme left and greens, more than 73% of Muslim voters declare their support to the left.

This massive sympathy for the leftist parties aren't explained only by the characteristic features of the Muslim electorate, younger than the average French, less favored socially. Fourquet analyzes that these social factors do play a role but that an additional premium is definitely given to the left according to the origins and culture. It benefits from a more flattering image, fed by decolonization, the opposition to racism and the support of the Palestinian cause.

In contrast, the Right can asses in these survey figures the direction to conquer the Muslim electorate. The UMP has particular trouble, with rating of less than 10%.

Nicolas Sarkozy doesn't have a brilliant standing in this area at all. He's extremely far off from Jacques Chirac's popularity in this electorate. That was one of the most outstanding points of the study. In 2004, the Muslim electorate appeared Leftist, but supported Chirac.

In 2008, it's still the Left, but anti-Sarkozy. Fourquet explains that Chirac benefited from special treatment, due to the fact that his election in 2002 was against Le Pen, his opposition to the war in Iraq and his image as a friend of the Palestinians.

Sarkozy himself hadn't succeeded in arousing similar appeal in the Muslim community, despite the signals sent to that electorate. As Minister of the Interior he had made many efforts to get the French Council of the Muslim Faith going. Elected as President he surprised in naming a government that showcases diversity, with Fadela Amara and Rachida Dati, named to the prestigious Minister of Justice.

Fourquet says that this taking of risk hasn't paid off. It wasn't enough to make people forget the other contradicting bad signals experienced by a portion of the population on the issue of immigration, on the friendship proclaimed with the USA and Israel, the creation of a "national identity" minister or the memory of the riots of 2005, when the current president was minister of the interior. The Muslim electorate is today more critical of the actions of the President.

Besides the left-right divide, the study shows the unexpected breakthrough among the Muslim electorate of François Bayrou, practicing Catholic and proclaimed head of the Christian Democracy. The head of the Union for French Democracy (MoDem), has surely profited from the last presidential campaign by bringing into this party the electorate that until now was unknown in the Centrist family.

Fourquet says that his speeches on laicite open to religions, his insistence on the necessity of escaping the clashes, is seducing also to the Muslims. He was able to speak to those who are seeking an alternative to the Socialist Party.

This should be noted by the parties. The Muslim electorate evolves, as all others, and is not acquired by one party forever.

The Ifop study was based on 109 polls between 2003-2008, with all together 108,186 French, out of which 3,280 declared themselves Muslim.

This displays the French Muslim political preferences.

(click to enlarge)

Top left - support by Muslims (green) and the national average (blue) for the different political parties, ranging from the extreme Left on top to the extreme Right at the bottom. The last line is those not supporting any party.

Bottom left - support by Muslims (green) and the national average (blue) for Chirac and Sarkozy.

Right - support for the different political parties over the past five years. Pink - Socialists, Red - extreme Left/Communists, Green - Greens, Blue - Centrist, Yellow - No party, Grey - Nationalist/Conservative

Source: La Croix 1, 2 (French)

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