Study shows what French people feel positive about and what they fear

The 10,000 people surveyed reflected more positivity than last year but there are continuing worries over the climate and economy. President Macron has welcomed the results

The French have confidence in themselves and are right to do so, said Macron, in response to the new study
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People in France are feeling more positive and optimistic than last year but they are still anxious about the climate and economy, a new study welcomed by President Emmanuel Macron has found.

The study was carried out by La Dépêche du Midi newspaper with research agency Harris Interactive and in partnership with Challenges magazine.

Called ‘Le cœur des Français 2022’ (‘The Heart of the French People 2022’), it asked people about how they see the country’s future, their view of democracy, their own future, what they are optimistic about, their major worries and what makes them angry.

The study included 10,020 people representative of the French population aged 18 and over, and was carried out in the first week of July. The full results have now been published in a special edition called ‘The State of France in 2022’ (‘L’État de la France en 2022’).

More positivity, less worry

Compared to a similar study from last year, the results included:

  • A more positive feeling, including a 15 percentage point increase in ‘determination’ (up to 43%)
  • A rise in optimism (up 17 percentage points to 43%)
  • A slight drop in worry (a 16 percentage point drop to 37%).
  • 30% said they felt joy and enthusiasm most days

These results are thought to be due to the easing of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Overall, two-thirds of people said they feel generally satisfied with their current quality of life, a metric that has stayed stable since the last study.

In fact, 29% said they felt their quality of life was set to improve. This was most likely to be felt by people aged less than 35.

Fear, anger, quality of life

However, there was still some level of worry and negative feeling.

  • 10-15% reported feeling frustration, resignation, anger or fear
  • 34% said they did not anticipate much change in their quality of life in the near future
  • 26% said they believed their quality of life would change for the worse
  • 85% said they were concerned about purchasing power

The state of France

The feeling about the ‘state of France’ was relatively muted.

  • 60% said France is ‘in decline’ - a sentiment felt more by the middle and working classes
  • 81% of Rassemblement national sympathisers (far-right) said France is in decline
  • 88% of Reconquête sympathisers (also far-right) said the same
  • Almost 50% said that unions and the army are helping France to progress
  • But two-thirds said that politicians are contributing to the country’s decline

Democracy in France

Sentiment about democracy in France was largely negative.

  • 55% of people overall said they do not believe that democracy is working well in France
  • 89% said that they feel that ‘too many decisions are made in Paris by people who do not know the reality of most of the country’
  • 77% said they would be in favour of giving more power to local authorities
  • 81% said they do not always believe that elections are fair
  • 11% said they believe that elections are nearly always or always unfair or false
  • 85% said they would be happy to take part in some kind of protest in the current political climate
  • 26% said they feel that France is an ‘authoritarian regime’ (up eight percentage points)
  • 33% of people who support the extreme right-wing or extreme left-wing said they believe that France is an ‘authoritarian society’

Climate change

Overall, people felt that the government is still not doing enough to combat climate change, or ensure the burden of changes are shouldered by everyone in society.

  • 69% felt that the powers that be are not doing enough in favour of the environment (most age groups and demographic are in agreement on this)
  • 48% said that eco-friendly causes should be the state’s main priority currently
  • Most people said they would want any eco-friendly measures or extra responsibilities to be fairly shared among people in France

In the report, Harris Interactive said: “Strong concerns are being expressed about the future, whether it be climate change, the future of young people or their children, and economic issues (purchasing power, tax levels).

“Economic issues are of greater concern this year. At the same time, the Covid pandemic is of much less concern, as is unemployment.”

“The deterioration in purchasing power is being felt by all socio-economic categories. This year, the wealthier categories are declaring a greater deterioration in their situation compared to the last study.”

President Macron’s response: ‘Optimistic and determined’

When asked to comment on the results, President Emmanuel Macron said he “saluted the study, which enables us to discover more about people’s feelings and priorities”.

He said: “The questions asked are essential: what is the state of mind of our fellow citizens, what are their concerns, how do they face the challenges of the times?

“Their answers are just as important: they illustrate the clear-sightedness and spirit of responsibility of a nation that knows how to identify the major challenges it faces in order to better overcome them.”

He said that “three major horizons” had emerged, including:

  • The end of the month: Improving purchasing power
  • The coming years: Training and employment for young people
  • The end of the century: Climate concerns.

He said that his plans would address each, and said that his party had already started to put measures in place to help the “first horizon” of improving purchasing power.

"We are a France that has so much to take into the 21st century,” he said. “The French people know how to show up as stronger and more resolute, when circumstances require it: they proved that during the pandemic.

“Those who people said would be unruly have shown themselves to be united. Those who are said to be quick to protest have proved resilient.

Macron: Despite ‘pessimist reputation’, the French have ‘confidence in themselves’

The president continued: “Our reputation as pessimists has not prevented us from regaining our optimism after two years of the health crisis, nor from putting our worries behind our determination. This shows that we are, once again, optimistic and determined, and we have good reason to be so.”

He said: "The French have confidence in themselves, and they are right to do so. Of course, they are also worried about their country, but we only worry about what is precious to us, what is worth defending. This concern must inspire action by all.

“Our people are facing the challenges of the century with their eyes wide open, aware of the difficulties and perils, but confident in their ability to overcome them, sure of their strengths.”

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