IFOP has a report out—commissioned by CEVIPOF—on the Jewish vote in France. Or, rather, on the electoral orientations of French Jews, as one cannot speak of a Jewish vote stricto sensu (just as there is no such thing as a Muslim vote, or Maghrebi vote, or whatever). Measuring the electoral behavior of French Jews has been problematic given that they make up less than one percent of the population, so their numbers that show up in polls do not constitute a representative sample. Much of what has been said on the subject—including by myself—has thus been based on impressions—that are more or less informed—and the handful of studies (mostly articles) by political scientists that have appeared over the years. So we do know that Jews tilted left in the 1970s and ’80s but have been moving right over the past decade, particularly as the North African/Sephardic/Orthodox portion of the Jewish community has become predominant. That Nicolas Sarkozy was exceptionally popular among Jews in the run-up to the 2007 election was hardly a secret. The support for Sarkozy was not only political but also visceral; he was seen by many Jews as almost being a member of the community (for the anecdote, I crossed paths with Sarkozy at the big February 2006 march for Ilan Halimi, and observed the warm feelings of the many present toward him).
The IFOP study aggregated polling data gathered over the past ten years—a total of 173,000 interviewees—, out of which a representative sample of Jews could be culled. The numbers are interesting. In the first round of the 2007 presidential election, Sarkozy received 31.1% of the vote but among Jews he spiked to 45.7%. Jews also gave Ségolène Royal a higher percentage (28.8) than did the broader voting electorate (25.8). The high scores for Sarko and Ségo were to the detriment of François Bayrou—identified with provincial Catholicism—, the extreme left candidates, and of course Jean-Marie Le Pen, who took 4.3% of the Jewish vote (it would be most interesting to know about these Jews for Le Pen). The number I found the most striking was from the 2002 election, where in the first round the N° 1 candidate of Jews was the conservative free-marketeer Alain Madelin, who received 3.9% nationally but 21.5% with the Jews. Madelin’s pro-Israel positions were well-known but I still wouldn’t have expected this. His youthful engagement as a street fighter in the extreme right-wing Occident—an outfit that was not exactly philo-Semitic—was clearly not redhibitory.
What the current numbers show is that in the May 2007-09 period, Sarkozy enjoyed an overall 62% approval rating from Jews—compared to 46% from the population as a whole (but 64% with practicing Catholics). In the period from June 2007 to January 2012, Sarko’s approval rating has dropped to 32% for the population, 43% among Jews, and 50% among practicing Catholics. While Jews still support him more than the overall electorate, the falloff has been steeper. So Sarkozy is in trouble even with a core constituent of his base.
But even if the totality of French Jews were to vote for Sarkozy, he still wouldn’t win. He’s toast. I give his chances of reelection at around 1%. More on this in the next ten days or so.