2012 French Pre-Election Report: How Sarkozy Could Still Win

by Joshua Tucker on May 5, 2012 · 6 comments

in Campaigns and elections,Comparative Politics,Election Reports

Public opinion polls on the eve of the second round of the French presidential election suggest that incumbent Nicolas Sarkozy is heading for near certain defeat. For supporters of the president looking for a glimmer of hope, Bertand Lemennicier, professor of economics in Faculty of Law of the University of Paris Sorbonne, Pantheon-Assas, has written a paper using spatial models of voting to predict the outcome of the 2012 French Presidential Election, which he has kindly made available to The Monkey Cage here. As the report is in French, he has also sent along an English language summary which is available here.

The model relies on three assumptions:

  • that each candidate can be located on a left–right axis;

  • that, in order to win, candidates seek to find a set of voters ideologically proximate to them to whom they can appeal;

  • that, ceteris paribus, electors vote for their preferred candidate (the candidate closest to them ideologically) in the first round of the French presidential elections

With these assumptions in hand, the following approach is adopted:

We predict that the winner will be the candidate the closest to the overall median voter in terms of the % percentage of vote the candidate needs to capture on his right (if he is on the left) or on his left (if he is on the right).  By using the historical records of French Presidential elections we can estimate the percentage of votes at the second round in function to the distance to the overall median voter. Two months before the election we use opinion polls to have an idea of the bimodal distribution of votes and we calculate how far is the candidate from the left from the overall median voter of the distribution of votes.

His prediction: Sarkozy wins a very close contest.  More details are available here (in French) and here (in English).

[h/t to Bernie Grofman]

{ 6 comments }

Donald Douglas May 6, 2012 at 2:49 am

Sarkozy’s going down…

Daniel Florian May 6, 2012 at 4:09 am

Hm, that sounds all very nice theoretically, but is it really realistic? The model seems to assume that a) all voters will actually vote and that b) voters vote *for* somebody, not *against* somebody else. And in the French case it seems that Sarkozy will not be able to mobilise his own supporters sufficiently and that many will turn out to vote against the incumbent … So I’d agree with Donald: “Sarkozy’s going down …”

Andrea De Angelis May 6, 2012 at 8:18 am

My guess is that the incumbency status is somewhat underestimated in this analysis. We should not forget that we are in the middle of the worse economic crisis from the end of the war. A last minute swing here might be different than previously observed, running against Sarkò…

Masha May 6, 2012 at 1:30 pm

This was my first guess, as well.

But then it was brought to my attention by my professor that the French might not only vote against someone but also consider the results beyond one election. Bertand Lemennicier’s model also presupposes that the people who do vote this round are only thinking about the winner of this particular election. If Le Pen is as clever as they say she is, she and her supporters will let Hollande win and then try to monopolize the vote of the right in the next elections.

Cempazúchitl May 6, 2012 at 2:16 pm

Just by reading assumption #1 it is obvious that this model is worthless

Peter Hovde May 6, 2012 at 3:34 pm

Kudos to Prof. Lemennicier for putting himself on the line, which more political analysts should do. Now, will Hollande’s victory provoke a re-evaluation of the assumptions?

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