Less than three months after his inauguration as President of France, Emmanuel Macron’s approval ratings have plunged precipitously, reports Reuters:
French President Emmanuel Macron heads into the summer break faced with falling popularity ratings after tough debates in parliament over labour reform and a public ethics law, a standoff with the military and cuts to housing assistance.
A YouGov poll published on Thursday showed 36 percent of voters held a favourable view of the 39-year-old, a fall of 7 points on the previous month and echoing the downward trend seen in other surveys.
To put Macron’s current numbers in perspective, recall that he enjoyed a 62 percent approval rating at the start of his term in mid-May. A 26-point plunge in three months would be bad news for any leader, but especially for Macron, whose political appeal rests in large part on his image as a centrist unifier. To add another bleak data point to the picture, Macron is already less popular in France than Donald Trump is in the United States, with the YouGov poll putting his approval one point lower than the U.S. President’s current average of 37 percent.
There is no shortage of scapegoats for Macron’s current predicament. To begin with, Macron’s support was always softer than many appreciated. To be sure, he pulled off an impressive underdog victory—but he benefitted immensely from record abstentions, major party scandals, and a broad second-round coalition aimed at stopping Marine Le Pen. After his election, it is no surprise that reluctant Macron voters have reverted to a position of skepticism, especially after a series of controversial reforms and self-inflicted wounds.
Macron has famously suggested that he would govern like the Roman god Jupiter, an authoritative but distant figure operating above the political fray. But the events of recent weeks have brought him down to earth. First in June came a series of high-profile resignations, after several of Macron’s ministers were ensnared in parliamentary investigations. Then in mid-July came Macron’s public spat with the head of the French armed forces, who ended up resigning in protest over Macron’s proposed budget cuts. Days later, there was the unpopular decision to reduce government spending on housing subsidies. And hovering over all these controversies has been the anticipation of Macron’s labor market reforms, which he is trying to push through over the objections of the Left and France’s powerful unions.
Macron’s current unpopularity may not necessarily derail those reforms; his party currently enjoys a large majority in Parliament, and the Senate just granted him the green light to fast-track his liberalization of the labor market. But Macron’s steadily declining support does offer a cautionary tale. If he fails to deliver economic growth but keeps pushing an unpopular reform agenda, he could face greater street resistance and eroding support, perhaps even within his party. Becoming France’s great centrist unifier is harder than it looks.