Candidate Evaluations and Presidential Electoral Choices in France
There have been only six French presidential elections between 1965 and 1995, but there has been considerable variation between these in the extent to which the candidates’ leadership attributes might have contributed to voter choice and electoral outcomes, and during the same period there has been an unusual degree of constancy in the nature and strength of the underlying social and political forces. The theme of this chapter is the collision between these two forces (transient candidate qualities and long–term electoral forces), but before this analysis is made, a brief account is given of how presidential elections are conducted in France. The main part of the chapter is an analysis of the six elections between 1965 and 1995: the 1965 de Gaulle election; the 1969 election won by Pompidou; the 1974 election won by Giscard d’Estaing; the 1981 and 1988 elections won by Mitterrand; and the 1995 election won by Chirac. Constraints on personal candidate appeal are then discussed, before presenting a further analysis of the 1988 election. The study focuses on the extent to which the traditional left–right dimension has affected the electorate’s behaviour and electoral outcome, and whether there were elections in which one candidate had a clear advantage over the other in terms of personal popularity or leadership attributes; the objective was to determine whether the left–right factor was weaker at elections where personal qualities were presumed stronger, and this hypothesis received some support from the analysis presented.
Keywords: candidates' leadership attributes, candidates' personalities, Chirac, de Gaulle, election outcomes, electoral forces, France, Giscard d'Estaing, leaders' personalities, left–right factor, Mitterrand, Pompidou, presidential elections
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