December 20, 2017 / 4:07 AM / 8 months ago

France's Macron firms up bounce in opinion polls

PARIS (Reuters) - French president Emmanuel Macron’s popularity jumped back above 50 percent thanks in part to better ratings among the young and the working class, an opinion poll showed on Wednesday, confirming a rebound that started at the beginning of December.

French President Emmanuel Macron attends a meeting at the Elysee Palace in Paris, France December 19, 2017. REUTERS/Philippe Wojazer

Macron’s popularity dropped quickly after he swept to an electoral victory in May on a centrist platform, shattering a long-standing two-party system in France.

But while the former investment banker has struggled to shake off a “president of the rich” tag pinned on him by rivals for policies such as cuts in housing benefits, Macron’s efforts to defend French interests abroad have helped lift his ratings.

His popularity rose above 50 percent for the first time since his election in early December, and a new poll on Wednesday, taken on Monday and Tuesday, showed the president scoring a 52 percent approval rating.

That was a six-percentage-point jump from November, according to the BVA poll, carried out for Orange and La Tribune and released on the eve of Macron’s 40th birthday.

As well as praising Macron’s international efforts, those surveyed also highlighted that he was delivering on campaign promises, BVA said, even though some policies like a labour reform that gives employers greater freedom to hire and fire staff were deeply unpopular with many of his detractors.

The president is most popular with older voters and higher earners, but made the biggest progress in the latest poll with the young, BVA added.

Other surveys this week also confirmed Macron was making headway, although a ViaVoice poll for Liberation published on Tuesday put his popularity rating lower, at 46 percent. That was also a six-percentage-point improvement on the previous month.

An Odoxa survey gave Macron a 54 percent approval rating.

Macron’s turnaround in polls comes as political rivals are scrambling to regroup and form a stronger opposition, at a time when both the left and right are deeply fragmented.

The president’s office recently played down attacks from some opponents over Macron’s planned birthday celebrations with his family in the grounds of a former royal palace, which drew jibes about him being out of touch.

Reporting by Sarah White, Caroline Pailliez and Julie Carriat

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