“Old Wine in New Bottles? New Wine in Old Bottles?: Class, Religion and Vote in the French Electorate” — The 2002 Elections in Time Perspective

  • Bruno Cautrès
Part of the French Politics, Society and Culture Series book series (FPSC)


Late in the evening of an incredible electoral night, on 21 April 2002, Jean-Marie Le Pen gave a speech from his campaign headquarters, as were doing all the main candidates for presidential election: the symbolic function of this kind of speech is, for the two candidates leading the first round and thus selected for the second one, to mobilize their electorates and “frame” the explanation of their success. In his speech, the National Front leader presented himself as the voice of the “have nots” “n’ayez pas peur de rêver, vous les petits, les sans-grade, les exclus”. In the continuation of his speech, he added: “je suis socialement à gauche, économiquement à droite et plus que jamais, nationalement de France”. The key function of that speech was to try to demonstrate that by its vote, the French electorate had realized a kind of political “big bang”: would it be still possible to say that left and right positions, old cleavages based on socio-economic issues, new cleavages based on values, were the main lines of understanding the French political life? Indeed, the “orthodoxy” about the role of “heavy variables” les “variables lourdes” as Nonna Mayer has defined them in the electoral alignments of the French voter, has, no doubt, been put into question by the 2002 elections. This questioning is the main topic of this chapter, focusing on class and religion as allegiances for the French electorate in the context of a new political map and electoral offer not only the extreme right but now also the extreme left and in the context of sociological trends in the French society: redefinitions of the salariat, secular decline of the artisans and farmers, new forms of relationship between work and employment, and secularization of an “old European” Catholic country.


Presidential Election Time Perspective Church Attendance Legislative Election Class Vote 
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© Palgrave Macmillan, a division of Macmillan Publishers Limited 2004

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  • Bruno Cautrès

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