A pessimistic France facing four major areas of tension
The morale of the French remains at half mast in this year 2020: 78% of them believe that "France is in decline" (5+ points), the highest level since 2017 and the arrival in power of Emmanuel Macron. However, one Frenchman in two (51%) also believes that this decline "is not irreversible", a sign that this pessimism is not absolute.
This gloomy state of mind can be explained by the successive crises that have hit French society in recent years. Health crisis, in the first place: 49% of French people cite "the Covid-19 epidemic" as one of their main concerns, with concern about it being particularly strong among those aged 70 and over (61%). Already very high in past years and still fuelled by the consequences of confinement, the economic and above all social crisis is adding to this: 39% of French people say they are very concerned about "difficulties in terms of purchasing power", 37% about "the future of the social system" and 23% about "the rise in social inequalities" - figures that could increase further in the weeks and months to come if the epidemic's impact on economic activity remains strong. In clear progression since 2018, ecological concerns remain important and are cited by 36% of the French, and more particularly by the under 35s (42%), left-wing supporters (48%) and the middle/upper categories (50%). Finally, the numerous news items of the last few months have brought to light a new concern that has until now been relatively minor in the eyes of the French: delinquency (36%), a subject that worries especially the 60 years old and over (52%) as well as the RN (43%) and LR (53%) sympathisers.
A growing demand for protection
To face these different threats, the French are asking their leaders for better protection at all levels:
- Protection vis-à-vis the world around them, which is crystallising through globalisation: 60% think that this phenomenon is "a threat to France", i.e. a return to the levels recorded in 2013-2014. And more broadly, 65% believe that "France must protect itself more from today's world", the highest level collected since the beginning of this barometer.
- Social protection: 55% believe that to revive growth, it is preferable to "strengthen the role of the State" rather than leave more room for manoeuvre to companies, this figure increasing by 7 points in one year.
- Security protection: 88% believe that "authority is a value that is too often criticised today", and 55% are even in favour of restoring the death penalty, the highest figure measured since 2014.
But a still strong mistrust towards the elites supposed to protect the French people
However, the confidence of the French in the elites supposed to provide them with protection remains very limited. Thus, only 12% of respondents believe that "the elites most often take decisions that are in the interest of the majority of the population", while one French person in two (51%) believes on the contrary that "the elites most often take decisions that they know are not in the interest of the majority of the population".
In detail, if the French trust SMEs (81%) as well as public institutions such as the army (80%), the school (76%) or the police (71%), they are more distrustful of large companies (47%) or banks (40%), trade unions (32%) and especially the media (24%) and political parties (11%).
To face this rejection of the traditional elites, the introduction of participatory and deliberative democracy processes is approved by a fairly clear majority (57%) of the French. This option is particularly favoured by the under-35s (66%) as well as by left-wing (68%) and LREM (65%) supporters. At the same time, however, authoritarian temptations are very strong, with 82% of the French agreeing with the view that "we need a real leader in France to put things in order", with all generational, social and political categories largely agreeing with this statement. The best way to respond to this demand for protection within a democratic framework is therefore put on the table as one of the main challenges for the coming years.