Marine Le Pen can win the French presidency in May — and here’s how.
Do you remember a French sociophysicist called Serge Galam? You might, but if his name does not sound too familiar, his work almost certainly will.
Back in the summer of 2016, when opinion poll after opinion poll was predicting a Hillary Clinton presidency, Galam — a researcher at the French National Centre for Scientific Research — was pointing to an unlikely Trump victory:
“The Trump phenomenon […] according to a model of opinion dynamics from sociophysics […] was in principle predictable from the start,” he wrote in his paper The Trump Phenomenon: An Explanation from Sociophysics (2016).
Galam is at it again, applying his unique perspective based on combining methods from physics and statistical sociology, to the French presidential contest.
Whilst a quick glance at survey trends reveals that Le Pen looks almost certain to make it through the presidential election’s first round, which is due to take place on April 23, all polls are indicating that she will lose in the second round on May 7 — a vote that puts the first round’s top two candidates against each other in a one-on-one match-up.
But for Galam, the polls are missing out a vitally important factor: abstention, the act of restraining oneself from voting, and how it impacts voter turnout for different candidates.
In an interview with Politico, he asserts that voter abstention, which could be as high as 30 percent, according to a poll by CEVIPOF, is likely to be decisive in the scandal-ridden campaign.
“Obviously, nothing is done yet but [Le Pen’s] election is becoming very likely,” Galam told Politico. “I’m taking a scientific view of this — she needs a turnout differential of about 20 percent to win.”
In other words — as in one potential scenario outlined by Politico and Galam — if Le Pen is projected to lose the second round, the runoff, by 41 to 59 per cent, she could still win if 90 percent of National Front voters turnout against 70 percent for her opponent, “for an overall turnout rate of 79 percent.”
There are innumerable possible outcomes, but the essence is clear: the right-wing firebrand could succeed because a substantial number of people who say they will vote for her rival — which will either be centrist Emmanuel Macron, or centre-right scandal-plagued candidate Francois Fillon — may not actually go to the polls.
In fact, according to the Daily Mail, a former advisor to Nicolas Sarkozy said he would rather ‘go fishing’ when asked to choose between Le Pen and Macron in the second round.
Ultimately, as Galam puts it, “The polls show this: People who want to vote for Marine Le Pen are going to vote for her. And a lot of people will vote against her, but in that group, there is a lot of reticence […] My approach for the [National Front] is different […] What I’m doing is blindingly obvious: I just start from the principle that a voting intention is not the same thing as an actual vote, and work from there.”
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