Macron’s Popularity Slumps to a New Low

By Fayçal Benhassain | September 7, 2017 | 12:16am EDT
French President Emmanuel Macron. (Photo: Élysée Palace)

Paris ( – Less than four months after taking office French President Emmanuel Macron’s popularity has slumped dramatically according to polls, and is now languishing at 30 percent, prompting French media outlets to note that even President Trump is faring better in surveys in the U.S.

According to a YouGov France poll conducted at the end of August, only five percent of respondents said they were very happy with Macron’s performance.

In an interview with a weekly magazine last week, the president acknowledged that French voters were not happy with him and his government. His prime minister, Édouard Philippe, also saw his popularity rating drop from 55 points last month to 46.

Experts and commentators attribute the slide to Macron’s plans to reform the country’s labor code and slow pace in introducing laws, in particular efforts to slow growing unemployment.

A survey conducted at the end of August found that nearly two out of three respondents (63 percent) do not trust Macron and his government to reform the labor code.

All labor unions are against the reforms. Among the more unpopular proposals are one making it easier for employers to hire and fire workers, in order to “free up the energy of workforce.”

Currently, there is no limit to the amount a court may order an employer to pay out an employee who loses his or her job, but Macron is proposing a limit of three months’ for employees more than two years on the job, and up to 20 months’ salary for those with 30 years of employment.

Overall, Macron argues that he wants to encourage entrepreneurship and introduce greater flexibility.

Frédéric Saint-Clair, a political scientist, said the proposals to reform the code are contributing to Macron’s poor poll showing because of a poor communication strategy in particular.

He added that French people are also impatient about the changes promised by Macron during his campaign and after his election.

“This fall is accentuated by the way Macron is exercising power, which the majority of the population does not accept anymore,” Saint-Clair said.

The way Macron communicates has had a negative impact on his popularity, he said. The president has given no interviews since July and was largely absent in the media throughout the month of August.

He popped up in reports about him playing soccer with a club, filing a complaint against a reporter who published pictures of his family while on holidays in Marseille, and discussing his wife’s official role as the first lady.

Bruno Cautres, researcher in political science, recalled that Macron said numerous times while campaigning that if elected he would change the country in five years. His government has announced budget cuts and housing subsidies for students, but many are concerned he will follow an austerity policy.

Cautres said the proposed changes to the labor code look “messy” for many voters, with some struggling to understand the direction in which the government is going.

Another setback came last July when Macron accepted the resignation of the armed forces chief of staff, who opposed defense spending cuts. 

Saint-Clair said Macron’s fall in the polls is accentuated by “his way of exercising power, to which the majority of the population does not adhere.”

During a trip to Romania last month, Macron said in a speech that the French people “hate  reforms,” a comment that drew sharply negative reactions on social media here.

Other observers say Macron’s reliance on Twitter and “meaningless” public appearances are not helping French people to understand what he is doing to improve their daily lives.

“Some people begin to feel they are dealing with a great seducer and an outstanding communicator, but one whose Hollywood-like communication is only an instrument in the service of a policy of austerity,” said Jerome Fourquet, political scientist at the Paris-based polling and market research firm IFOP.

Government spokesman François Castanier has indicated that Macron plans to address the French people soon, but gave no details.

In the U.S., the Gallup daily presidential poll on Tuesday had 56 percent of Americans disapproving of the job President Trump is doing and 37 percent approving.

The Rasmussen Reports daily tracking poll for Wednesday showed 45 percent approval by likely U.S. voters and 53 percent disapproval.

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