French Catholics rebuff far-right Le Pen, help re-elect Macron

In the end, Catholics in France voted overwhelmingly for Emmanuel Macron and handed the incumbent president another five years to lead their republic.

Apr 29, 2022

The more one practices the Catholic faith, the more one votes for Emmanuel Macron and the less one votes for Marine Le Pen, according to an Ifop poll for La Croix and Le Pèlerin. (LCI photo/Andriano via Stock Adobe)

By Bernard Gorce

In the end, Catholics in France voted overwhelmingly for Emmanuel Macron and handed the incumbent president another five years to lead their republic.That’s according to a survey that the polling firm Ifop carried out for La Croix and its sister weekly, Le Pèlerin, immediately after Sunday’s second and final round of the 2022 French presidential election. Macron captured 55 per cent of the Catholic vote, but that was three percentage points lower than the French population as a whole.

The survey showed that Catholics chose the incumbent over his far-right challenger Marine Le Pen in proportion to their commitment to practicing their faith. For instance, 45 per cent of non-practicing Catholics voted for Le Pen. But that fell to 42 per cent for practicing Catholics (a level equivalent to the national average) and to 39 per cent for weekly churchgoers (three points below the average).

If we compare these results with those of the same study conducted in 2017 for La Croix and Le Pèlerin, we note a progression of the Catholic vote for Le Pen, roughly equivalent to that of the entire electorate. Five years ago, according to the same poll, 34.3 per cent of the French voted for her (Le Pen’s final score was 33.9 per cent). She got 38 per cent of the Catholic vote – 39 per cent of those who are non-practicing and 29 per cent of weekly Massgoers.

Le Pen was the run-off candidate for the far-right National Rally (NR) party – formerly the National Front (FN) – the last two presidential elections.

“For a long time, practicing Catholics represented the category most resistant to voting for the NF, subsequently the NR,” said Jérôme Fourquet, director of Ifop’s opinion department.

“This specific characteristic gradually withered and has now disappeared,” he noted.

With 39 per cent of regular churchgoers voting for Le Pen, they certainly remain about three points below the national percentage. But the dynamic is strong in this category, up 10 points in five years.

More broadly, this survey confirms Le Pen’s progress among the wealthy conservative electorate, said Fourquet.

The Éric Zemmour effect
If we compare these results with those of the first round of voting on April 10, we see that the effect of Éric Zemmour – Le Pen’s far-right rival – played a major role in explaining the high rate of voting for the extreme right among practicing Catholics. Zemmour got 16 per cent of the vote among practicing Catholics, a much higher score than the seven per cent obtained among non-practicing Catholics and among all voters.

This extremely identity-based candidate clearly campaigned on the basis of conservative Catholic networks.

This was not the case with Le Pen, who presented herself as the “people’s candidate” and who still generates reluctance among practicing Catholics.

But for Fourquet, the Ifop polling official said, this reticence is pretty weak.

“The Éric Zemmour vote served as a channel to bring practicing Catholic voters to the extreme right. They went on to vote for Le Pen in the second round,” he pointed out.

Another finding of the new survey is that Muslims who had voted overwhelmingly in the first round for the far-right candidate Jean-Luc Mélenchon (69 per cent) voted on Sunday in even greater numbers (85 per cent) for Macron.

“The Catholic vote is marked by a wide diversity, the Muslim vote is very homogeneous,” said Fourquet.

But he said those who cast a ballot for Le Pen did so less as a vote for the far right than a vote “against Macron, the candidate of the rich”.

Between the two categories of Catholic and Muslim, the Protestant vote reflects a relative diversity, with a clear majority of 65 per cent for Macron, but a Le Pen vote that has increased by two points in five years, from 33 per cent to 35 per cent. --LCI (

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