More people are sympathetic to the current French farmers’ protest than that shown for the gilet jaunes movement even at the height of their popularity, according to a new poll.
Farmers have blocked a growing number of motorways and roads since January 20 to protest French and European regulations as well as a new tax on agricultural diesel.
However, despite the extensive disruption the protest is causing to travel, the vast majority of the French public supports the movement, according to a poll by Elabe.
How popular is the farmers’ protest?
The farmers’ methods of blocking roads are reminiscent of those used by the gilets jaunes, or yellow vest protesters in 2018-2019.
Similar polls by Elabe regarding the support for the gilets jaunes showed that popular support for the movement was at 73% in November 2018*, falling to 50% in April 2019*.
‘We have to act with more dignity’
Conscious of their popular support, the farmers unions have been quick to denounce the more extreme elements of the protest movement.
Mouvement des agriculteurs : A Agen, la préfecture dégradée— LCI (@LCI) January 24, 2024
️"On n'a rien obtenu, on nous a baladé encore une fois... On est submergé de colère", explique Karine Duc, viticultrice et coprésidente de la Coordination rurale. pic.twitter.com/mNkVgN74K8
In Agen (Lot-et-Garonne), protesters sprayed the gates of the prefecture with manure and set fire to tyres on January 24.
In response the vice president of farmers union FNSEA, Luc Smessaert, used FranceInfo to warn protestors “not to damage property”, and to remind them to “act with more dignity”.
What is the government doing about the protests?
The popular support for French farmers has given politicians from across the political spectrum pause, with Marine Le Pen, the Communist party and even Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin publicly declaring sympathy for their struggle.
The FNSEA and Jeunes Agriculteurs farmers unions presented a list of demands to the government on January 24. In particular, they are demanding an “immediate end” to the environmental constraints placed upon them by French and European regulations.
“These demands are not negotiable,” warned FNSEA president Arnaud Rousseau. “This is are a complete list, not for the government to pick and choose from.”
Prime Minister Gabriel Attal is expected to respond to the demands on Friday (January 26).
*Elabe online polls for BFMTV of 1,000 people