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Crisis leaving the French 'bitter and divided'

Dan MacGuill · 11 Dec 2013, 18:50

Published: 11 Dec 2013 18:50 GMT+01:00

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France may be the home of fraternité and solidarité, but according to two recent surveys, the French people are anything but happy and united, as the financial crisis leaves them feeling bitter towards one another, and less trusting of government.

Some 74 percent of the French feel that France is “in decline”, according to a survey published on Wednesday by polling firm Ipsos, in collaboration with left-leaning newspaper Le Monde.

What’s more, nearly one third believe that this process of decline is irreversible.

The proportion holding this pessimistic view about the future of France rises to 91 percent among supporters of the far-right National Front party, and 85 percent among those on the right.

By comparison, 48 percent of left-wing French voters feel their country to be in decline.

In strictly economic terms, industry is no longer seen as a feasible place to start a possible recovery, with 70 percent believing French manufacturing is set to only become less and less competitive on the world stage.

So has this bleak outlook bonded the French to one another? Are they united even in directing their wrath towards politicians or employers?

Far from it, according to another recent survey, also performed for Le Monde by French firm CSA.

The results of their poll, published earlier this month, reveal that the French – two thirds of whom feel the country is in an “unprecedented crisis” – are increasingly retreating from the traditional French principles of solidarity and trust.

In what will make for unhappy reading for the Socialist government of President François Hollande, fully 77 percent  of those surveyed feel that inequality in French society has become even worse “in the last few years.”

Among the principle targets of this French anger were “scroungers” or "profiteurs" in French – a term referring to those who benefit from social welfare payments – political parties, and the country’s main unions, according to CSA.

For his part, Bernard Sananès, president of CSA, told Le Monde that the survey revealed a France made up of “several worlds, each opposing one another, jealous of each other, and having trouble coexisting.”

The poll also showed a strong class consciousness emerging in France in 2013, according to Sananès, with the French society “distrusting not only those above them, but also those at their side.”

Story continues below…

This division is no more obvious than in groupings created by CSA, based on extensive answers to a wide variety of questions in the survey.

Out of five different “Frances” observed by the authors of the poll, the largest was “Bitter France," which reflects the views of Ipsos chief Brice Teinturier, who recently labelled France a "society of resentment."

This isn’t the first time in recent months that the French have been shown to have a dark view of their own society and its future.

Back in April, The Local reported how a survey carried out by Viavoice and communications agency W & Cie, revealed that the French felt they were mired in a “collective depression,” with the erosion of traditional values and the financial crisis chiefly to blame.

Dan MacGuill (dan.macguill@thelocal.com)

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