“the flag effect” boosts the outgoing president’s campaign

In the new 2022 poll conducted by the Elabe Institute for BFMTV, which aired Tuesday evening, the projection around Emmanuel Macron’s voting intentions rose by 8.5 points. An unprecedented rise that leaves its rivals far behind, and is explained by a “flag effect” caused by the war in Ukraine.

Already seemed well engaged even before her official launch, she will soon seem unplayable to her rivals at this rate. Emmanuel Macron’s campaign ahead of his re-election at the Elysée Palace jumps in the polls. The new 2022 poll conducted by the Elabe Institute for BFMTV unveiled Tuesday evening gives him 33.5% of the first-round voting intentions at this stage. That is an increase of 8.5 points in one week.

“Father of the Nation”

A vertical line of the electoral curve of the outgoing president, all the more impressive because he leaves his competitors far behind: Marine Le Pen only achieves 15% of forecasts, Jean-Luc Mélenchon – despite positive dynamics – 13 points.

Moreover, the conclusions of the Elabe Institute do not stand alone. According to this Franceinfo poll, Emmanuel Macron already scored four points in one week last Friday.

“The pollsters call it ‘the flag effect’: his position as ‘father of the nation’, warlord, president in office most of all,” explains BFMTV’s political editor-in-chief Matthieu Croissandeau.

Presidential Certificate

“Flag Effect”: The expression is released. It would be the factor X assigned to the head of state by the circumstances – in this case Russia’s invasion of Ukraine – the fatal weapon with which the outgoing can eliminate the competition. On Friday evening, political scientist Benjamin Morel analyzed this martingale with France 3: “In conversation with Joe Biden, Vladimir Poutine, who struggles with the ethos of the position and you do not leave on an equal footing with your competitors.”

A certificate of “presidentiality” that allows Emmanuel Macron to get out of old difficulties.

“The candidate has not harmed the President. He has not reactivated the divisions around the personality or the program of the President of the Republic that we have known in public opinion for five years,” said BFMTV Bernard Sananès, President of the Elabe Institute .

While he is still concerned about 66% of Elabe panelists, his rating is indeed improving elsewhere. In detail, so 69% of French respondents consider Emmanuel Macron “dynamic” (6 points up), 61% say he is “brave” (+9), 55% “competent” (+8).

On the Ukrainian dossier, experience as an asset

But Bernard Sananès prefers to propose a different percentage to give substance to this “flag effect”: the 90% of the French who express their fear about the war in Ukraine and its possible international consequences.

“This ‘flag effect’ manifests itself in particular because there is this concern. And in a moment of concern one clings to experience, and experience – it is also paradoxical when one thinks back to 2017 – this is Emmanuel’s first asset Macron.”

“The second asset is that it is currently considered ‘up to scratch’ by a majority of French people – 60% of them (exactly 62%, editor’s note). This figure is exceeded even among the voters of Valérie Pécresse or that of Yannick Jadot “, the pollster continues. “He bites all voters,” emphasizes Matthieu Croissandeau.

Never seen”

You might think that this “flag effect” goes without saying. Indeed, Jacques Chirac had already regained his political virginity in public opinion, at the end of a forty-year career and during his second presidential term, by mobilizing in 2003 the patriotism of the French against the American will to go to war against Iraq . And certainly, as Frédéric Dabi, director-general of Ifop’s Opinion Department, points out, the Gulf War had significantly restored President Mitterrand’s image.

“The time was not in a presidential campaign. (…) The political agenda is completely new this time”, emphasizes Frédéric Dabi, however. This flag effect is “unheard of for a outgoing president”.

Margaret Thatcher carried by “the spirit of the Falklands”

However, the phenomenon is not new to everyone. The second Intifada proclaimed by Palestinians to Israelis in the early 2000s — and the breakout it caused by some of the voters from the center to their left — was accompanied by the 2003 reelection of Ariel Sharon as head of the Hebrew Democratic Party. government. His status as a former general did not detract from this.

The effect was particularly apparent in the United Kingdom in the early 1980s, when Margaret Thatcher then took three weeks to recapture the Falklands from the Argentines for the British Army in the spring of 1982. This event earned her the nickname of “Iron Lady” and a newfound popularity: a prelude to his re-election a few months later. The main stakeholder was not mistaken in her time. In the following years, as explained Guardianthe Prime Minister has regularly called on the ‘spirit of the Falklands’ (the British name of the archipelago) to save her.

Circumstances less involved in the ongoing conflict, to the extent that France is not combative, will not give Emmanuel Macron a chance to seize a hypothetical “Ukrainian spirit”. A Ukraine where the local blue and yellow flag still flies over the cities of Kiev, or even Kharkov, defying the Russian advance and bombing raids.

Robin Verner BFMTV journalist