“Communication on masks has left traces” on the relationship of the French with politics

A lively and masked crowd in Paris. – JP PARIENTE / SIPA

  • Cevipof, the Sciences Po research center, published its annual survey on the confidence of the French on Monday.
  • With the health crisis, has the relationship between citizens and politicians changed?
  • “We notice a real demand for protection on the part of the French”, comments political scientist Bruno Cautrès, co-author of the study.

With the persistence of the coronavirus, morale is not high. “Lassitude” and “gloom” are on the rise in the country,
according to the traditional Cevipof barometer on the confidence of the French,* published this Monday. The health crisis also has an impact on the relationship between citizens and politicians. We talk about it with Bruno Cautrès, researcher at Cevipof and co-author of the study.

What impact has the health crisis had on the state of mind of the French?

We can see that weariness (41%, +13 points in one year) and gloom (34%, +12 points) are on the rise in the country, much higher than last April, during the first confinement. The gloom is also higher than during the terrorist attacks in 2015, which shows that the climate is heavy and heavy. In twelve years of investigation, we have realized that this negative climate is more structural than in other European countries. The French population has a fairly negative filter, the French are rather pessimistic.

Are there any grounds for hope, however?

The French maintain their confidence in public institutions, those which take care of their daily lives, the French-style protective state: hospitals (81% confidence, +1), schools (73%, +3), sovereign public institutions (the police, 69%, +3 or the army 77%, +1). They are also less worried about the current financial situation of their household (48%) than that of the country (84%). This is undoubtedly linked to the accompanying measures in recent months.

What about policies?

Confidence is on the rise for all who hold responsibility. It is a normal reflex in the event of a crisis. But we still notice a very significant gap depending on the position: 65% of French people trust their mayor (+2), 51% their regional advisers (+7), but only 44% trust their deputy (+7) , 34% to the Prime Minister (+3) and 37% to the President of the Republic (+7). Even if there is a stronger confidence, the national incarnation remains very far from the local level.

Is it because of the management of the health crisis?

Only 37% of French people believe that the government is managing the health crisis well. We are far from 56% in Germany, 52% in Italy, or 48% in the United Kingdom. This gap between France and its neighbors has been maintained for a year, while the government ensures that it does better than the rest of the European countries. This is of course explained by the traditional political mistrust in our country. But the communication of the beginning of the crisis on the masks also left traces. Just like questions about testing, tracing, or vaccination.

The level of trust in political parties is very low (16%) compared to trust in scientists (75%). Politicians say they have relied on scientists to manage the crisis …

If the French have confidence in hospital staff, the omnipresence of experts in the media has had consequences. What we notice in the survey is that the possibility that “it is experts and not a government who decide” is less successful than before. Such a system is supported by 47% of people, which is 5 points less than in the last survey.

The preferred political system remains the democratic system, but several indicators show a demand for less vertical power, democratic renewal, closer to the people. 80% still think that politicians do not care at all or little about their opinion.

Do the French have new expectations from politicians?

There is dissatisfaction with the way democracy works, and with our meritocracy compared to other European countries. 57% believe that you need to have relationships to be successful in life. Yet the promise of emancipation was at the heart of Emmanuel Macron’s initial project.

We also notice a real demand for protection from the French, more than from their European neighbors. No index shows a desire to reduce our social model and 44% believe that France must protect itself more from the world now (+6 points), against 19% who want more openness. We find this element on the question of immigration, since 63% of French people want the country to be more closed on the migration issue.

* Survey conducted online by Opinionway from January 20 to 31 with 2,105 people registered on the electoral rolls, from a sample of 2,294 people representative of the French population using the quota method. Margin of error of 1 to 2.2 points at most per 2,000 respondents.

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