Socialist French President Francois Hollande, elected in May, became the country’s most unpopular leader at just over 100 days into the job, a poll showed.
Hollande’s approval rating fell by five points to 50 percent from July, beating the 54 percent level for Jacques Chirac at the same point in his presidency in August 2002, the poll for Figaro Magazine weekly by TNS-Sofres showed yesterday. Nicolas Sarkozy, who lost to Hollande, had a 64 percent rating after 100 days, while Francois Mitterrand was the most popular with a 66 percent approval rating in August 1981. TNS-Sofres started polling the 100-day popularity in 1978.
“French people have become impatient,” Leendert de Voogd, the Brussels-based global head for politics at TNS, said in an interview. “They’re looking for the miracle man who can reverse the crisis within 100 days. But that doesn’t explain this bad score. The lack of leadership at the helm, mishaps in communication and of course the economic pressure are conspiring to make him the least-popular president at the start.”
Hollande, who returned from a 15-day summer break last week, faces an economy that hasn’t grown in three quarters, rising joblessness, a ballooning trade deficit and the task of coming up with a plan in the next few weeks to plug a budget hole of more than 30 billion euros ($37 billion) for next year.
The government may revise its 1.2 percent economic growth forecast for next year, making it even harder for the euro area’s second-largest economy to create jobs.
Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault’s approval rating fell three points to 51 percent, TNS said.
“French people today don’t feel reassured about their future; they’re not ready to sign a blank check to the government,” government spokeswoman Najat Vallaud-Belkacem told reporters yesterday. “We knew there wasn’t going to be a grace period.” Hollande wasn’t elected to be “Mr. Miracles,” she said.
An Ipsos opinion poll for Le Point magazine showed Hollande’s popularity plummeted 11 points from July to 44 percent. That compares with Nicolas Sarkozy’s 61 percent rating in August 2007 and Jacques Chirac’s 56 percent in August 2002, the Paris-based polling institute said.
“This result reflects Hollande’s election: there was no real passion, no real desire for him,” said Jean-Francois Doridot, Ipsos’s head of opinion polls. “If you add these difficult economic circumstances, the result doesn’t come as a surprise.”
Hollande was elected on May 6 with 50.64 percent of the vote, defeating Sarkozy with a margin of 1.1 million ballots.
Although Hollande’s government has attempted to address the quotidian concerns of the French people, the overall impression is one of a lack of action, Ipsos’s Doridot said.
The government announced Aug. 28 that retail fuel prices will drop by as much as six cents a liter in part thanks to a three-month government tax rebate that will cost the state 300 million euros. That came after pressure built up to counter the rising cost of motor fuel and diesel prices rose to a record.
Hollande’s cabinet also promised 100,000 subsidized jobs for youths without diplomas next year and extra measures to boost hiring. The youth jobs plan will add a 2.3 billion euros cost to the 2013 budget, the government said.
“The Ipsos survey asks respondents about the president’s action and so far they have seen little that reassures them,” said Doridot. “The price of oil at the pump is always a very sensitive issue. Maybe the latest government actions will make a difference, but I don’t expect Hollande’s approval rating to go above 50 percent in the near future.”
TNS-Sofres polled 1,000 respondents of ages 18 and more at their homes between Aug. 24 and 27. Ipsos called 965 respondents over 18 years old on Aug. 24 and 25. The two Paris-based institutes didn’t publish margins of error.
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