One in three back Sarkozy, as president hits new low in polls
According to the CSA poll to appear Friday, only 33 percent of respondents believe Sarkozy's policies are going in the right direction.
PARIS, February 27, 2008 - Only one in three French voters now approve of
President Nicolas Sarkozy, whose popularity rating has hit a new low with
local elections barely two weeks away, a poll showed Wednesday.
According to the CSA poll to appear Friday, 33 percent of respondents
believe Sarkozy's policies are going in the right direction -- a four-point
drop since January -- compared to 61 percent who disagree.
The poll of 1,003 people was carried out for Valeurs Actuelles magazine on
February 20, three days before a highly-mediatised outburst in which Sarkozy
swore at a man who refused to shake his hand at a farm show.
Sarkozy's approval rating has taken a nose dive since the end of last year,
from highs of well over 60 percent during the first months of his mandate.
Pollsters say the French leader's jetset itinerary -- he married his third
wife, model-turned-singer Carla Bruni this month, after divorcing his
glamorous second wife Cecilia in October -- has given voters the impression he
was neglecting campaign pledges to boost their spending power.
As concerns mount over the sluggish economy, there are signs French voters
are increasingly uncomfortable with Sarkozy's unorthodox presidential style --
seen by critics as undermining the role of head of state.
Fifty-six percent of respondents, an 11-point jump, said Sarkozy "badly
represents the role of president".
Municipal elections next month are shaping up as a referendum on Sarkozy's
first nine months in power with his right-wing Union for a Popular Movement
(UMP) party expected to fare badly against the opposition Socialists.
But in contrast to Sarkozy's slide, support for the lower-key style of
government of Prime Minister Francois Fillon soared six points in a month, to
55 percent -- the highest gap between a president and his prime minister in
the last half-century.
In an interview with French newspaper Le Parisien on Tuesday, Sarkozy
admitted his poll plunge was largely linked to his turbulent personal life and
played down the ratings gap with his prime minister.
"There have always been periods like that in president-prime minister
teams. But it is not a problem for me, it is rather a solution.
"It shows that the policies we are implementing are the right ones, and
that the fall is due not to politics but to certain events that appeared in my
life and that I had to deal with," Sarkozy told a panel of readers.
"My understanding of the role of head of state is not about making people
like me," he added. "For decades France did not make the choices that it
should have. My job is to defend my convictions and to carry on."
But on the question of Sarkozy's policies, exactly half of respondents --
plus 10 points -- said Sarkozy "is not doing what it takes to reform France,"
compared to 45 percent who disagreed.
And fully 65 percent said the president was "not doing what it takes to
bring France together.
With his ratings at an all-time low, Sarkozy embarked Wednesday on a trip
to Africa with his wife Carla, making her first voyage abroad as France's new
En route to South Africa, Sarkozy was marking a brief stopover in the
former French colony Chad, three weeks after France helped the Chadian
government repel a rebel attack on the capital Ndjamena.