The Cable

Can We Trust Polls in the French Primary? Mais Non.

Let us say c'est tout for polls.


France’s center-right party will hold its second round primary for the presidential election next Sunday. It will be between Alain Juppé and François Fillon. Who will win?

We don’t know. And the polls don’t, either. And do you know how we know the polls don’t know? Because they did not see Fillon winning the first round primary this past Sunday.

In the run-up to the first round primary, Fillon consistently polled behind Alain Juppé, mayor of Bordeaux and former foreign and prime minister, and Nicolas Sarkozy, former president of France.

And then, with roughly 4 million votes counted, Fillon had around 44 percent of the vote, besting Juppé, who received 28.5 percent. Fillon also knocked Sarkozy right out of the race. Sarkozy has since thrown his support behind Fillon who was, after all, his prime minister back in the day (“the day” being 2007 to 2012).

And before you swirl a tiny coffee or fine glass of red wine, take a puff of your cigarette, and say that you knew this would happen, let us just say: no. No, you probably did not, just as most Americans, having also placed their faith in the polls, did not foresee President-elect Donald Trump’s win.

Polls, be they American or French or whatever else, are not to be trusted at this particular moment in global history. If they were, Americans would not have been as shocked by Trump’s win. Nor would it have been surprising that Fillon, with his penchant for the free market and Margaret Thatcher, his openness to working with Russia, and his opposition to gay marriage (which he has said he would not repeal), suddenly went from expected bronze medalist to likely center-right party candidate in 24 hours.

A September poll showed that Fillon would beat the far-right, anti-immigration National Front’s Marine Le Pen with 61 percent of the vote. Do you know what that means to us now?

Nothing. Rien de rien. Au revoir, polls. Au revoir.


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