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6 April 2017

Battle of the least disliked in the French debate

French public dish out criticism to all three candiates

Our latest French Debate analysis has highlighted the shift in sentiment shown towards the leading French presidential candidates during the two recent televised debates on 20 March (Debate 1) and 4 April (Debate 2), with the mixed sentiment from the first debate moving toward a far more emotive and negative outlook during the second.

The data demonstrated that French public were far less engaged on social media during the second debate. Only 24,504 individual users discussed the second debate on social media – a 46 per cent decrease from the first debate.

However, those members of the French public that did take to social media to discuss the French presidential candidates were far more scathing in their analysis of the debate. 57 per cent of all online conversations mentioning the debate showed a negative sentiment during the 4 April debate.

Similarly, there was a marked decline in the number of neutral statements made online. While 40 per cent of conversations during the first debate had been neutral, only 12 per cent of the respective conversations during the second were neutral.

These findings demonstrate that while the silent majority of the French public that did not take to social media to voice opinions had increased, the minority willing to express an opinion online had become far more emotive and far more negative.

Sentiment information on sentiment ranking available on request

The data showed that Marine Le Pen, François Fillon and Emmanuel Macron faced significant criticism from French social media users. It also highlighted negative opinion of Marine Le Pen and François Fillon – the frontrunners in the election race – increased between the two debates.

Le Pen endured the greatest criticism of any candidate in the second debate; she had fared marginally better than her rivals in the March debate. 27 per cent of 53,774 mentions in the first debate were negative, which rose significantly to 70 per cent in the second debate.

With the number of positive mentions of Le Pen also decreasing from 26 per cent to 21 per cent between the two debates, the Front National candidate experienced a significant fall in approval of her performance during the debate. On the day of the second debate, Le Pen experienced 49 per cent negative net sentiment – the difference between the proportion of negative and positive mentions.

Similarly, 57 per cent of 33,685 mentions of Francois Fillon on social media during the second debate were negative. This represented a 9 per cent increase on negative sentiment shown towards Fillon during the first debate in March. This translated into a significant increase in the negative net sentiment shown to Fillon, which stood at 20 per cent in the second debate.

Sentiment information on sentiment ranking available on request

Emmanual Macron fared marginally better than his rival candidates due to his improved performance in the second debate. Negative mentions of the centrist candidate decreased in the second debate, standing at 52 per cent of 5,193 mentions during the most recent debate.

DataEQ’s analysis demonstrated that there was widespread antagonism towards each of the presidential candidates on social media, suggesting that the election race has developed into a battle of the least disliked.

This research demonstrates that there was no clear winner in this debate. The leading candidates were generally all viewed with disdain by the French public on social media. Critically for this election race, Marine Le Pen was roundly attacked for her stance on immigration and her misuse of funds from the EU.

We have seen significant similarities between this election and last year’s US Presidential campaign. Both elections have seen the leading candidates held in a negative light by the majority of social media users.

However, Donald Trump crucially proved to be the least disliked candidate in the US elections.

Last year, we monitored social media conversations during the televised US election debates. These research projects provide snapshots of public opinion and the issues that underpin this opinion. These snapshots may not be indicative of final election results.

To see how we called the US Elections click here.

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