The “popular classes”, electorate with divergent interests

To Jean-Luc Mélenchon the promise of a minimum wage of 1,400 € net and the price freeze on basic necessities. In Marine Le Pen the increase of € 200 per month in household purchasing power and reduced VAT on fuel and energy. This fall, the government distributed a energy check “, then one inflation compensation. Five months before the presidential election, the declared or putative candidates multiply the gestures towards the popular classes. It is difficult to claim to represent an electorate with such a broad and vague spectrum.

“The tutelary figure of the worker in the industrial world has become very much in the minority, recalls Thierry Pech, director of the progressive think tank Terra Nova. There remain common points among the popular classes: economic resources, cultural capital and statutory protection weaker than the others. This is not enough to make a common identity. ” Behind the socio-professional categories “workers” and “employees” hides a strong heterogeneity of income, jobs, education and origins.

The politicians make their market in this large group which represents nearly 50% of the assets, and select the categories which interest them to unroll their ideas ”, tackle Thierry Pech. If the politicians can at will draw their “popular classes”, it is because the term encompasses as many profiles as divergent interests. Inhabitants of sensitive neighborhoods, young rural people far from activity centers, retirees with low pensions: the same vulnerability can hide desires and solutions at the antipodes. “To influence political action and debates, these categories should be able to unite, poses Olivier Masclet, lecturer in sociology at the University of Paris-Descartes (1). But they have as many reasons to associate as to divide. “

The researcher distinguishes three “Strata” popular: a France of precariousness, in rurality or large urban spaces; a stable, but modest France, which an accident of life can bring down; people with “Small means”, sometimes owners. “The heterogeneity of these worlds results in a great dispersion of political affiliations and voting intentions, complete Thierry Pech. Not to mention that a significant part abstains or does not even register on the electoral roll. “

Under the last five years, the movement of yellow vests and the mobilizations against the pension reform could have predicted a convergence of interests long since disappeared. “A population totally crumbled since the 1970s suddenly mobilized: the poor workers of the private sector, workers, employees, self-employed”, analysis Jérôme Sainte-Marie, president of the PollingVox polling institute. a “Popular block” according to the political scientist (2), highlighted by the Covid-19 and its precious workers on the “front line”.

Paradoxically, the health crisis would have mainly brought down the political breath. “We are emerging from a period of massive depoliticization and social anesthesia, notes Jérôme Sainte-Marie. The redistributive function of the state has reduced the level of social conflict in the country. The president’s rating has risen: there was no longer any urgency to oppose power head-on. ”

For the presidential election, the pollster plans a “Popular vote for the most part in the nationalist current, (…) strong of a feeling of exploitation and downgrading. “ In the first round in 2017, Marine Le Pen had achieved her best scores among employees (32%) and workers (37%). Five later, in the Ipsos electoral survey for Cevipof and the Jean-Jaurès Foundation, the representative of the RN and Éric Zemmour lead among employees (20.2% and 14.2% respectively) and workers (32 , 7% and 15.8%).


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