EXCLUSIVE SURVEY – The deficit and the public debt return to the concerns of the French

Posted Oct 17, 2022 5:00 PMUpdated on Oct 17, 2022 at 6:14 PM

As the use of article 49.3 to pass the 2023 budget looms, the government has started the exercise of sorting out the amendments it wishes to keep. Hostile to the taxation of superprofits to which he prefers a “contribution on companies”, he is clearly not followed by public opinion. The measure remains supported by 81% French people according to the poll carried out by OpinionWay-Square for “Les Echos” and Radio Classique and published on Monday.

This support is expressed “in all categories of the population and in all political currents”, including supporters of the presidential majority (86%) and LR (80%) who also widely support it. “It’s a fairly easy measure to approve by public opinion because it is not directly affected,” explains Bruno Jeanbart, vice-president of OpinionWay.

Political divide

If the device arouses lively debates, it is not the heart of the concerns of the French. A little more than two years after the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, the latter still place health at the top of their priorities: struck by the cruel lack of means from which the sector suffers, 47% of respondents believe that public spending must increase there. Within LR and Reconquête, another subject is however considered more promising: the increase in the police budget. And unsurprisingly, the supporters of Europe Ecologie-Les Verts first put forward the environment and the ecological transition.

Among all respondents, environmental considerations come second, cited by only 30% of them. The subject remains politically divisive. If the electorate on the left is sensitive to it, it is less the case elsewhere: in particular, only a third (35%) of Renaissance sympathizers set up the increase in resources dedicated to the environment as a priority. And this idea is even less supported by the supporters of the RN (22%) and LR (18%).

More confusing for the executive, support for businesses has few emulators, even within Emmanuel Macron’s electorate. “Faced with inflation, the French tend to favor measures that support demand,” analyzes Bruno Jeanbart.

In fact, a large majority say they are in favor of extending the tariff shield on electricity and gas next year, developing the MaPrimeRenov’ system, increasing hiring aid for apprenticeships. And 80% of respondents support the reduction of taxation on inheritance, Emmanuel Macron’s campaign promise.

Schizophrenia? While these measures would lead to a jump in public spending, the question of controlling public finances is coming back to the concerns of the French. Thus, 56% of respondents believe that the executive must reduce the public deficit and debt in its 2023 budget. And this, “even if it should slow growth”.

A bankruptcy of France?

“This is one of the surprises of the survey. I did not expect to see these fears reappear in the current period, ”admits Bruno Jeanbart. At a time when the executive boasts of a “protective and responsible” budget, of which each added expense will have to be financed “to the nearest euro”, his speech therefore finds an echo.

After having disappeared from the debates, the deficit and the debt are gaining importance again: 79% of those polled are alarmed at the levels reached and 53% even consider France to be bankrupt possible. Surprisingly, the slowdown in the French economy is not yet worrying: only the supporters of LFI and the PS consider in the majority that it is necessary to favor growth, even if the deficit in France is worsening.

Survey carried out on October 12 and 13 with a sample of 1,005 people according to the quota method.

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