The question of the popular or bourgeois profile of different votes has always given rise to a great deal of controversy. In our « History of political conflict« , Julia Cagé and I developed a method for establishing a number of facts and trends. We begin by compiling the electoral results at muncipality level for all legislative and presidential elections from 1848 to 2022, as well as for the most significant referendums from 1793 to 2005. We then classify the 36,000 municipalities (communes) according to their average wealth, from the poorest 1% of communes to the richest 1%, and observe how the score obtained by the various candidates and political currents evolve in proportion to their national average score. We use several wealth indicators, in particular the average income per
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The question of the popular or bourgeois profile of different votes has always given rise to a great deal of controversy. In our « History of political conflict« , Julia Cagé and I developed a method for establishing a number of facts and trends. We begin by compiling the electoral results at muncipality level for all legislative and presidential elections from 1848 to 2022, as well as for the most significant referendums from 1793 to 2005. We then classify the 36,000 municipalities (communes) according to their average wealth, from the poorest 1% of communes to the richest 1%, and observe how the score obtained by the various candidates and political currents evolve in proportion to their national average score. We use several wealth indicators, in particular the average income per commune. We obtain the same results with other indicators such as the average value of housing.
When it comes to the Macron or Ensemble vote in recent elections, we see an exceptionally steep slope. We sometimes find right-wing votes that are even more bourgeois than Macron, for example Madelin in 2002 or Zemmour in 2022 (proof if it were needed that the anti-immigrant vote is by no means the exclusive preserve of the working classes), but these are smaller votes in terms of electorate size. For votes of comparable importance (let’s say around 20-30% of the vote or more in the first round), so if we compare it to the Giscard, Chirac, Balladur, De Gaulle or RPR-UDF votes in the past, then the Macron or Ensemble vote appears to be more bourgeois, in the sense that it has approximately the same slope as past right-wing votes at the top of the distribution (within the richest communes), but a steeper slope at the bottom of the distribution (within the poorest communes). In other words, while the traditional Right managed to capture part of the vote in the most modest communes/local authorities, particularly in rural areas, this is not the case for the Macron vote.
It should be pointed out that this trend began before Macron. For example, the Sarkozy vote in 2007 or 2012 is steeper than the Giscard or Chirac votes of the past, particularly at the lower end of the distribution, because part of the rural working-class electorate voting for the right has already begun its transition to the FN-RN, particularly as a result of the disappointment following the 2005 referendum and the parliamentary ratification of the Treaty of Amsterdam. Which goes to show that the FN-RN vote in small towns and villages is above all a socio-economic vote, concerned about de-industrialisation and international trade integration, and not an identity vote that can be captured with facile rhetoric about the « karcher » or « racaille« . Basically, Macron is simply extending and amplifying this bourgeois-Sarkozist evolution.
Let’s be clear about this: leaning more heavily on the wealthiest classes than on the others does not mean that the project being proposed to the country is not the most relevant, and conversely, relying more on the working classes is certainly no guarantee that the policy being pursued will be the right one. A voting profile that is too clearly and persistently bourgeois does, however, pose difficulties from a democratic point of view, the main risk being that we become accustomed to the idea that the poorest people are structurally less well placed than the richest to judge the policies that affect them.
The other difficulty with the current situation is that the urban and rural working classes are divided between the left-wing bloc and the national right-wing bloc, which prevents any democratic alternation. To sum up, employees in the service sector (commerce, catering, cleaning, care, etc.) continue to vote left-wing, regardless of their origins, while workers in small towns and villages have swung over to the RN (Rassemblement National).
However, historical experience shows that the tripartition is structurally unstable. It will be difficult for the central liberal bloc to stay in power without broadening its social base in the direction of one or other bloc, probably the right. The most likely and, to a large extent, the most desirable development is the rise to power of a new form of left-right bipolarisation, with a left-wing bloc with a broader popular base on the one hand, and a liberal-national bloc on the other, formed by bringing together the most liberal and bourgeois tendencies of the other two blocs. However, this depends on the ability of the left-wing bloc to unite, to deliberate and to democratically internal differences, both on programmes and on individuals.
As far as the programmatic basis is concerned, it seems essential to place at the heart of the analysis the very strong feeling of abandonment that has developed since the 1980s and 1990s within the small towns and villages, both in terms of access to public services and to transport, hospital and educational infrastructures and in terms of the perception of harmful international and European commercial competition orchestrated above all for the benefit of the urbanites. The central point is that the issues at stake are above all socio-economic and require an ambitious and appropriate response in this area. If an appropriate response is not forthcoming, then a continuation of a more or less chaotic tripartition is not out of the question, nor is the perilous transition to a Polish-style bipolarisation pitting a social-national bloc against a liberal-progressive bloc, with the attendant risk of tensions escalating and future social and climate challenges going unresolved.