There's a petit frisson around Sarkozy "narrowing the gap," and yes, there may be something going on along those lines. But a little perspective: looking at the last two polls of each of the eight pollsters, Holland has declined in just four of them, and by a maximum of two points. The lowest score for Hollande in any poll is 53%, i.e, about what Sarkozy had against Royal at about this point in the campaign in 2007, or what Chirac had against Jospin in 1995. Sarkozy ended up with 53.1% of the vote and Chirac with 52.6%. Having said that, considering his record, it's quite extraordinary that Sarkozy manages to keep this even vaguely competitive. And I can't help thinking about the famous "shy Tories" phenomenon in the UK 1992 election: could it be that polls are underestimating the rightist vote? French pollsters have a good track record, but that's only if you decide to discount the FN vote. A Socialist candidate as favorite is, as we know, an unusual phenomenon. And a look at the technical reports of the French polls shows quota sampling all over the place, and it's difficult not to be a little freaked out about that.
A quick look at the French 2nd round polls. Data taken from Sondages en France, 2nd round voting intentions for Hollande, six pollsters (Ifop, Ipsos, Opinion-Way, Harris, BVA, CSA), 63 polls total since January 22nd. I show two Lowess lines, one more sensitive than the other. Vertical lines are the 1st and 2nd round election dates. It takes a lot of zooming to get any inkling of change, but there it is: Hollande declining until early April, no clear evidence of change ever since, certainly too early to detect any post-1st round changes.
The last French polls did well, by comparative standards at least. In 2007, no pollster managed to estimate the vote for the first four candidates with an average absolute error below 2 points. In some cases, like in the CSA last poll, things were even worse, with Sarkozy's vote underestimated by almost 6 points and Le Pen's vote overestimated by more than 6 points. Things went better this time: Hollande and Sarkozy did slightly better than expected, and the major problems came with Le Pen and Mélenchon doing, respectively, better and worse that what the polls were suggesting, but still with deviations that were not so large as the ones that occurred in 2007.
A pollster-by-pollster look suggests that, in most cases, whatever may have been behind the over- or under-estimation of candidates' results was common to all pollsters: Le Pen was consistently underestimated, Mélenchon was consistently overestimated and, with few exceptions, the underestimation of both Hollande and Sarko were also common (and relatively small).
Things continue to look bleak for Sarkozy. In 2007, for the 2nd round results, Sarkozy got a majority of the votes in almost every single poll published since the beginning of the year:
Aqui. Para a jornalista Cristina Figueiredo, do Expresso, mudanças abaixo de um ponto percentual numa sondagem significam "Passos e Governo caem, Seguro e PS sobem." Realmente, gastar massa numa sondagem para depois vir dizer que está tudo exactamente na mesma é chato.
The April issue of French Politics (ungated) is dedicated to several fun articles forecasting the 2012 French elections. Nadeau, Lewis-Beck, and Bélanger, using simultaneous equations to deal, in the one hand, with the relationship between incumbent popularity and vote for the leftist candidates in the first round and, on the other hand, the relationship between unemployment, time in office, cohabitation, and incumbent popularity, predict that the Left will get a (narrow) majority of the votes in the first round. Nadeau and Lewis-Beck (again) and Didier then take a look at second-round vote as a function of presidential approval measured 4 months before the election and the image of the candidates, and suggest that Sarkozy is in rather bad shape for the second round, albeit not so bad as polls were suggesting a few months ago. Foucault focuses on legislative elections, using local data on unemployment, national GDP data, PM's popularity, local data again on previous electoral performance of the incumbent, and a couple of other specificities, and concludes that the Left will have a narrow majority of the votes (in the last issue of PS, Foucault and Nadeau also use local data, which is then aggregated and weighted to arrive at a prediction of a - narrow - Sarkozy defeat). Evans and Ivaldi predict Marine Le Pen with around 17%. But Jerôme and Jerôme-Speziari, using regional data, actually give a very close advantage to Sarkozy. As one of the papers notes, "a victory in 2012 would certainly qualify Sarkozy as one of the most successful campaigners in modern times." I guess at least that is safe to say.
This is the title of a conference jointly organized by the Department of Government and the BMW Center for German and European studies of Georgetown University. April 17th (from 9.30am to 3.00pm) and 18th (10.00am to 5.30pm) at the Edward B. Bunn Intercultural Center, 7th Floor Conference Room.
Closing the morning session on the 18th, we'll have Ambassador Nuno Brito, Ambassador of Portugal in the USA. Closing the afternoon session, we'll have Minister Antonio de Lecea, Principal Advisor on Economic and Financial Affairs at the EU Delegation in the USA.