“Social media gives the impression of a boring and sluggish campaign” (Véronique Reil-Soult).

LA TRIBUNE – What does social media analysis tell you about French interest in this presidential campaign?

VERONIK REY-SOULT – Rarely have we seen so little interest from the French in a presidential election. The topic has long been erased due to the war in Ukraine, Covid, the issue of purchasing power, etc. The townspeople were busy with other concerns. Even today, a few days before the elections, the interest is not as obvious as in the previous presidential elections.

Is it because of an outgoing president who is a candidate for re-election when we see the “flag” effect add up? Internet users are probably saying to themselves: “what’s the point if the rates have dropped”. Although, of course, this is not the case. First of all, we see – and this is very noticeable on social networks – that there is no commitment around Emmanuel Macron, who is nevertheless designated as a favorite, while in 2017 he benefited from a strong phase of curiosity. In general, this sequence is followed by a phase of interest, fame. Then through the phase of commitment, membership – we share, comment, like, pick up words.

Emmanuel Macron isn’t the only one showing little interest. This has been the case with Marine Le Pen for a long time. She was not very present in the networks. I must say that he does not have a very dynamic digital team.

As for the commitment, apart from its base of sympathizers, Emmanuel Macron did not generate strong adherence. On the other hand, there is a lot of rejection of a president who is struggling to erase his image of being arrogant, the president of the wealthy, etc.

Which candidates generated the most interest and commitment?

Erik Zemmour is curious from the start, but also committed. He has a large community that is mobilizing for him. He revived this campaign, although this is a little less true in recent days. Another candidate who is slowly gaining commitment is Jean-Luc Mélenchon. It attracts – especially young people – and mobilizes the idea that it carries a “useful” vote. For him, in the networks, activists or sympathizers “wet his shirt”, share, protect him, become active, spread his ideas.

Days before the election, Jean-Luc Mélenchon is undoubtedly the one who benefits from the most active community on the networks. Its meetings are widely publicized. He is also someone who is ahead of the curve on topics relating to social issues, purchasing power as well as ecology. He managed to create a commitment. His climactic formulas and talent as a public speaker have once again made him an effective competitor on social media dominated by the video format and Tik Tok in the lead.

What keywords are driving this campaign?

The whole topic around income and purchasing power comes first. We see this when using words such as: “the rich, rising prices, inflation, wages, fuel, etc.” They are often associated with “anxiety, injustice”.

Ukraine also enlivens the network with the words “war, sanctions, massacre.” The French will show indignation, anger, sadness… There is also a fear of not knowing how the situation will develop.

I have also noticed many messages in recent days related to the McKinsey case. Since March 17, more than 2 million messages have been exchanged on this topic in all networks – twitter, facebook, tik tok, etc. This is a lot. And it means something. For comparison, we have 900 thousand in Ukraine.

Finally, there are many comments about the lack of debate, contradictions. People have a feeling of a “prevented” campaign. The war, Covid, the refusal of some candidates to participate in competitions interfere. Then a kind of disappointment is expressed.

What are the changes compared to 2017?

Comparing the two campaigns is very difficult. Five years ago, social networks were already a little different. There was no Tik Tok, which is a very powerful channel today. In 2017, the appearance of Emmanuel Macron made a splash. He was new to the landscape, he was surprising, he was asking questions. This time, three potential poll finalists – Emmanuel Macron, Marine Le Pen and Jean-Luc Mélenchon – have already run at least one campaign. We don’t find them.

Only Eric Zemmour created the novelty, and his presence in the advertising campaign has long been a subject of discussion in itself. Moreover, she is one of those who most of all imposes her pace, launching topics and disputes into the discussion.

On the contrary, Marine Le Pen ran the campaign without unnecessary waves, but precisely, we see that she avoided blows, controversies. It was not too noticeable, and suddenly the attacks were still preserved. She didn’t make the news.

What about other candidates?

Yannick Jadot did not break through the net. Anne Hidalgo or Valerie Pekress too. They caused ridicule and rejection. Both will go unnoticed.

However, Valerie Pecress had a strong blast during her primary run, sparking curiosity but failing to spur interest, much less commitment. His influence continued to decline. Is it because she’s stuck between Emmanuel Macron and Marine Le Pen? She didn’t find a place.

Overall, this campaign was often perceived as “boring” by Internet users. It is measured by the number of messages exchanged about candidates, elections, polls, votes. For example, from March 22 to March 29, there are more than 710,700 of them. This is 10% less than five years ago or 7 days before the elections. Weak online turnout, as well as an expected record number of abstentions during the voting.