The killing of Nahel Merzouk by a French police officer on June 27th sparked France’s worst riots since 2005: more than 1,000 buildings and more than 5,000 cars were set on fire – costing businesses more than €1 billion in damage. This is similar to the total cost of the George Floyd riots in the U.S. – although those riots lasted 13 days rather than eight, and the U.S. is a much bigger country.
Much has been written about the causes of the riots and how the Government should respond to them. But what do the French people think? Thanks to a major new poll commissioned by the centre-Right newspaper Le Figaro, we now have some idea. (The results are all in French, but I used Google to translate them.)
Respondents were asked what feelings did the riots “provoke in you”. 89% said “concern for the future of France”, 84% said “anger” and 66% said “fear”. By contrast, only 21% said “understanding” and just 14% said “support”. So the vast majority of French are not sympathetic to the rioters.
Results broken down by party are shown below. (I put ‘far Left’ and ‘far Right’ in speech marks because I realise these labels are contested. The ‘far Left’ is the La France Insoumise group, while the ‘far Right’ is the Rassemblement National.)
Interestingly, the only party where there is substantial support for the rioters is the ‘far Left’ – though even here, it amounts to less than half of voters. What’s also interesting is that Macron’s voters look very similar to Republican voters and those who vote ‘far Right’. All three groups show substantial anger, and none shows much understanding or support for the rioters.
Respondents were also asked what “explains the riots in the suburbs”. 62% said “the rise of crime” (which seems somewhat tautological) and 47% said “the disappearance of authority”. By contrast, only 17% said “the attitude of the police” and just 11% said “the feeling of exclusion” – though 25% did say “economic and social difficulties”. So only a small minority of French believe the riots were caused by police brutality and social exclusion.
When asked “are you satisfied or dissatisfied” with the action of the Government and the police, respondents were far more satisfied with the police. 64% said “rather or very satisfied” when asked about the police, but only 27% did so when asked about the Government.
What’s more, most respondents endorsed quite heavy-handed measures for dealing with rioters. 77% supported “financially sanctioning” the families of those who are minors, 75% supported “depriving French nationality” to those who are dual nationals and 69% supported “cutting off social media” in the event of future riots.
These findings will make painful reading for the Left-wing journalists and politicians who’ve been claiming the riots were all the fault of the police for being racist and violent towards minorities. The public aren’t buying it: they want more policing, not less.