La Croix: Can we expect, for these regional elections, an abstention as strong as in the last municipal elections (55% in the first round and 59% in the second)?
Frédéric Dabi: It is always difficult to assess and often opinion polls overestimate abstention from reality. For these regions, we do not see an abstention lower than 55% (50% in the first round and 42% in the second during the regional 2015, Editor’s note). At this level, it is a behavior that affects all profiles: in municipal elections, the proportion of elderly people who did not vote in the first round had increased by 30 points compared to 2014.
→ PRACTICAL. Regional and departmental elections 2021: dates, voting method … the information to know
How do you explain such a high rate?
FD: For part of the population, voting has become futile, no longer of interest. These voters no longer perceive political action as a way of transforming their daily lives. The turning point took place in 2007, when the citizens voted in majority for renewal candidates (Nicolas Sarkozy, Ségolène Royal, François Bayrou) who disappointed. Since that date, we have seen abstention climbing with each ballot.
Are there not also cyclical explanations?
FD: Obviously, and for two reasons. First, the health crisis has degraded the link of the French to politics, especially during municipal elections: they were not eager to vote because of the health situation which has long cast doubt on the holding of this election. … Will this reluctance to go to the polls be as strong on June 20 and 27? This is not certain because we have just entered a period when health indicators are improving. The other reason concerns the electoral calendar. These regions are stuck between the health crisis, which has crushed all the news, and the presidential election which remains the queen election. This limits his interest a bit.
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That said, the regional fact has imposed itself among the French. They understood its importance. In addition, the regions are now often embodied by national personalities and the Covid-19 has amplified the positive outlook of the French on their actions. All this argues perhaps for a less strong abstention than announced.
How to re-engage voters?
FD: Campaigns are now starting more and more late, which complicates the task of encouraging the French to go to the polls. I am not saying that abstention is inevitable, but it is taken more and more into account by the candidates. It can augur different electoral strategies, where each party works rather on its core target, implements categorical strategies of speech towards specific clienteles, since we know that most abstain.