French election: How a pollsters got a final laugh


A lady walks past posters of presidential possibilities Marine Le Pen and Emmanuel Macron during a marketplace in Bethune, France, on Apr 24. (Pascal Rossignol/Reuters)

The formula of a initial turn of a French choosing came late Sunday: Of a 11 candidates, eccentric centrist Emmanuel Macron came out on top, followed closely by far-right personality Marine Le Pen. Both swell to a second turn of voting, set for May 7.


It’s a landmark choosing that saw France’s categorical domestic groupings pushed out by outsiders, yet it wasn’t a surprise: The polls had been presaging a Macron-Le Pen runoff for some time. The final formula were remarkably tighten to a normal predictions of pollsters, as a draft next shows:

In an age of anti-poll sentiment, what can we learn from France? On Monday, WorldViews spoke with Claire Durand, boss of a World Association for Public Opinion Research and a highbrow during a University of Montreal, to ask what a French polls got right — and what lessons there competence be for pollsters who are indicted of blank Trump and Brexit.

WorldViews: Overall, how good do we consider a French polling companies did?

Claire Durand: They did very, very well. They are within a domain of blunder everywhere. Their prophecy for Macron is on a spot. Le Pen? It is within a domain of error, yet she has been a bit overestimated. [Leftist Jean-Luc] Mélenchon has been underestimated, that is a surprise, yet it’s not indispensably an underestimation, we think. What happened many substantially is that many people who suspicion they were going to opinion for [Socialist Benoît] Hamon went to Mélenchon during a final minute.

Their [political platforms] were unequivocally close, and as people suspicion that maybe Mélenchon could make it to a second round, they competence have left Hamon and left to Mélenchon.

When we demeanour during a methodology of these polls, are there certain things that went right or went wrong?

It is always formidable with French polls given they use reports of prior elections to assistance estimate. They are not a customarily ones who do that. It’s a bit like in a United States when people use partisanship. It tends to revoke opposite . . . and people get indicted of plots like “herding,” as in a final British ubiquitous election. [Herding is when pollsters make decisions that means published estimates to change reduction than expected.] That didn’t occur this time, though.

What is intensely engaging in France is that there is a law where all a pollsters have to record all a information about their polls with a French polling commission. I’m on the AAPOR [American Association for Public Opinion Research] cabinet for a U.S. choosing and if we had that, we’d be very, unequivocally happy!

[French polls] ask people how they voted in prior elections, like a 2012 elections and a informal elections in 2015. we looked during dual pollsters — IFOP and OpinionWay — given they give all a information . . . and unequivocally it was roughly perfect. This means that when they use “report of prior election” to adjust their estimates, it doesn’t change anything. In fact, what we have is roughly accurately what they got anyway, given they used quotas for certain demographics. What we see is that either they weight or adjust or do anything else, it does not change a altogether numbers. It’s rather interesting. It was not like that in 2002, we can tell you.

That was a final time a National Front got by to a second round. Was that a large surprise?

2002 was for France what 1948 was in a United States or 1992 in Britain: It was a unequivocally large skip [for domestic pollsters].

At that time, there were 3 streamer candidates. Lionel Jospin [of a center-left Socialists], Jacques Chirac [of a center-right Rally for a Republic] and Jean-Marie Le Pen, father of Marine. Everybody was positively certain that a dual possibilities that would make it to a second turn were Jospin and Chirac. And what happened? Le Pen done it to a second round.

Afterward we were sensitive by some people that during slightest dual pollsters had Le Pen forward of Jospin, yet they altered a numbers! It was a bomb. People had no confidence in a polls, so there were some changes and a polling elect started to check more. They looked during one pollster’s numbers and pronounced a determination does not conform to a information file. And a pollster said, “Yes, we suspicion my numbers were not good and, we know, this would not be good for a credit of polls.”

In 2016 there was a new change in a law and now all is on a web so everybody can deliberate it. Interestingly, now there is no some-more underestimation for a impassioned right.

That’s something that people speak about a lot. we consider a normal chairman now thinks that a impassioned right is always underestimated in polls. That wasn’t a box here?

No. In fact, I went behind and looked during a 2012 elections and things were already improved by then. In France, people now say, “Voting for a impassioned right is not ashamed anymore.”

From what we know, did Le Pen get a strike in support after a attacks final week?

We don’t have that data, given it happened so late. We don’t consider it was a case.

Overall, it seemed that a customarily thing a polls missed was turnout, that they suspicion competence be reduce than 2012. Why was that?

Estimating those who will or will not opinion is an aged problem for consult methods. Even if we ask people either they voted [after a election], a guess is indeed utterly a lot higher than reality. My guess was that a audience would be high as there was other investigate in domestic scholarship that shows that a some-more possibilities we have and a closer a election, a some-more people go vote. They consider their opinion can change something.

There have been other elections around a universe — for example, in a U.S. or Britain — where there has been a large recoil to polls, righteously or wrongly. Is there anything that these polling companies could learn from a French pollsters?

Yes. Explain what a domain of blunder means! For me, it’s a doctrine of a U.S. and it’s a doctrine of Brexit. What I’ve seen in France is that all along, everybody spoke about a domain of blunder [and that it] means it could be either/or.

They did not use that most of a luck thing that we see in a United States. I’m positively opposite that: we consider that one reason Clinton mislaid in a U.S. choosing was that aggregators published figures display she had high luck of winning formed on published polls. When we tell people it is a high luck it will rain, they consider it is certain that it will rain. We didn’t see that so most in France. What we can learn is: Explain clearly what a domain of blunder means. In referendums like Brexit or a tighten choosing in a U.S., it is intensely important.

We’re now streamer adult to a second round. Most of a polls I’ve seen advise Macron has a gentle lead. Is there any reason to doubt a second-round polls?

No. I’ve seen how they do it, it’s roughly mathematical. They ask people how they voted in a initial round. They adjust for that and customarily for that and afterwards they run their determination process. This customarily gives an accurate — positively exact! — estimate. They’ve never missed a second-round vote. In fact, they customarily have it perfectly.

This twin has been edited for clarity and length

More on WorldViews

This draft shows how a French choosing is a mangle from a past


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