40% of French people believe that a revolution is necessary to improve the country’s situation

According to an IFOP survey for Atlantico, 39% of the French consider that to change the situation in the country, a revolution would be necessary, while 50% of them consider that a reform programme would be needed. How can this situation be explained compared to other European countries?

David Nguyen: The first thing to say is that this is an absolutely spectacular figure. Four out of ten French people consider that a revolution would be a good solution: even if we do not know exactly what they put behind this word, it is the mark of a radicality very present in society. What allows us to say that this is an important rate is that this figure is much higher than in all the other European countries we have tested. There are 39% potential revolutionaries in France compared to 20% in Germany, 14% in Austria, 13% in Spain, 28% in Italy and 14% among Poles. In these countries, the attachment to a reformist logic is higher than in France and the propensity for revolution is lower. Even if reformism remains dominant in our country with 50% of French people who do not want to go through a revolution but rather through reforms, this result indicates a particularly intense desire for change.

Can we not see a gap between the government’s perception, which seems to be betting on a decline in the movement, and the results of this survey?
David Nguyen: Indeed. The adherence to a revolutionary logic among a large minority of the French indicates a high level of political tension. It should also be noted that our investigation was conducted in mid-February, when the situation had apparently calmed down a little. We were in the middle of a major debate with a form of reconnection of the executive with some of the French and a feedback from Emmanuel Macron in the polls. However, this survey shows that the anger was still there and was ready to explode at the slightest spark. This is what happened on this last Saturday, probably in contrast to a president on the ski slopes who probably didn’t fix things. It is clear that, despite a major debate that is almost over, the level of radicality has not decreased at all.

For the coming days, it should be remembered that our latest measures established an agglomeration of 54% of the French who supported or sympathized with the movement of yellow vests. It is possible that we will see a decrease in this overall support after a particularly violent act, but it will be the “soft belly” that will have moved a little, and we will probably still have more than 40% of the French who will have a positive opinion, despite the dramatization of the violence. The government cannot therefore a priori bet on a major shift in public opinion towards yellow vests, simply because their social demands will always seem legitimate to a whole section of the population.

What are the differences of this revolutionary character according to the political orientations of the French?
David Nguyen: The predominantly revolutionary electorates are on the side of France, which is insubordinate to the Rassemblement national: 57% of Jean-Luc Mélenchon’s voters in 2017 and 66% of Marine Le Pen’s voters in 2017 believe that it is necessary to go through a revolution to change things in France (against 13% for Emmanuel Macron’s voters). When we look at the voting intentions for the 2019 European women, we see that 67% of the voters in the IF, i. e. 10 points more revolutionary radicality and 71% of the voters in the RN, i. e. 5 points more. We can therefore see that the potential revolutionaries are first and foremost in the formations most opposed to the current government and that this radicality has increased since the beginning of the five-year period. This means that the electorates of these two parties, who have never been in power, consider that there is no way out under the current institutional framework.

At this stage, it is therefore not clear whether a regular alternation with Jean-Luc Mélenchon or Marine Le Pen would be sufficient in the eyes of these electorates, or whether it would be necessary to go further by overthrowing the current institutions. In any case, there is an appetite for a radical change. In this respect, it should not be forgotten that Emmanuel Macron’s book, which launched his campaign, was entitled “Revolution”. Although obviously not all the French people believed in it, and everyone understood that it was not a question of totally overthrowing the system in place, we had seen in our studies that there had been a real seduction at the beginning of the five-year period among certain categories, even among the most popular, about the idea of a radical change, of someone who would do what others had never done, who had sent former political leaders back into their hands.

We can think that this desire for revolution and radicality has been all the more disappointed for these populations, who may have had the impression that they were finally facing a power that was even more distant from them than before.

According to an IFOP survey for Atlantico, 39% of the French consider that to change the situation in the country, a revolution would be necessary, while 50% of them consider that a reform programme would be needed. How can this situation be explained compared to other European countries?
Christophe Boutin: Indeed, the French stand out, with a score 11 points higher than that of the second European “revolutionaries”, the Italians (28%), and almost twice that of the Germans (20%) or three times that of the Spanish (13%).

It would be tempting to take a look at the political traditions of these different peoples, and to question the place that revolutionary phenomena have had in their history, as well as the subsequent connotation that the word “revolution” has for them. However, as has been said, France is a willingly revolutionary nation, whose recent history has been shaken by jolts of this type: 1789, 1830, 1848, 1958… and when the transition between two regimes took another form, it is simply that a coup d’état or a military defeat allowed it, and not that it was a “peaceful” transition (Thermidor, Brumaire, 1814, 1870, 1940, 1944). In the other nations considered in the survey, there are dynastic wars or wars of unification, rather than revolutions, at the same time – even if, indeed, the crisis of nationalities shook all of Europe in the 19th century.

Let us add to this first specificity that our republican mysticism, this “national novel” of propaganda, not only makes a revolution, that of 1789, the true birth certificate of our nation, shamelessly erasing centuries of history and the work of our kings, but also willingly exalts the other revolutions we have known, in which, as in the famous Delacroix painting, freedom is always supposed to guide the people. We are at the point in our country where, fifty years after the event, the “revolutionaries” of 1968 can use in the media and salons the capital of sympathy acquired by defying Charles De Gaulle’s CRS, so much being “revolutionary” is worth in France patent of intelligence and courage, whatever the reality may have been.


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