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The BPCE - Viavoice barometer survey of projects planned by the French - April 2012

The price of gas and the price of food joined employment at the forefront of concerns.

With only days remaining before the second round of the presidential election, public opinion is balanced between hope and resignation. On the one hand, the economic outlook is significantly improving (saving and spending intentions). On the other, there is considerable concern for the future in terms of:

  • The price of gas, a major concern for one in two French citizens (50%), the highest level in more than a year;
  • Employment, cited by 31% of respondents as their highest priority in the election campaign.

These subjects should therefore be major campaign issues as the second round approaches, when many French voters are already anticipating the impact of platforms on their standard of living.

Noticeable improvement of outlook on saving and spending

Saving and spending outlooks increased appreciably:

  • 13% of respondents plan to "save more money than in recent months", a four-point increase.
  • The index of spending intentions is up 10 points to 83 with a simultaneous improvement of car purchase intentions (9%, +1) and everyday consumer goods (11%, intention of spending more up two points).

Les Household outlooks remain balanced: of respondents, 15% believe their purchasing power will increase, an increase of four points, but 39% (+2) believe their purchasing power will decrease.

Impact of the election period: the lower income brackets are more optimistic on their purchasing power; more well-off expect an increase in taxes

In concrete terms, these differences may be explained notably by the anticipation of policies brought forward by the candidates who qualified for the second round:

  • Individuals in more well-off categories are most likely to expect a decrease in their purchasing power in in the wake of an expected increase in taxes: 54% of tradespersons and merchants, 45% of intermediate professions and 42% of managers expect a decline in purchasing power (versus an average of 39%). These same categories of respondents include taxes among the expense that are likely to increase in the coming months (38% of managers, 34% of tradespersons and merchants as well as 32% of intermediate professions);
  • In contrast, the lower income brackets are more optimistic on their purchasing power, even though this is still a major issue for these respondents: 18% of employees and 19% of wage earners expect an improvement in their standard of living (versus 15% on average).

Beyond taxes, which are perceived differently according to socio-professional category, other concerns are emerging among all population categories:

  • Spending related to gas is once again among the highest-priority expenses, reaching 50% of respondents (+2).
  • Food-related spending also increased substantially (up 9 to 49%).

Other expenses tended to decline in priority for the coming months for French citizens, notably electricity (down 2 to 25%) and natural gas (down 4 to 15%).

Employment often at the top of concerns, ahead of purchasing power and growth

"If candidates could only speak to one issue" between the two rounds, one in three French citizens would choose employment. This view is especially strong among categories particularly hard hit by unemployment and with the least job-security: youth (39%), the employees (36%) and wage earners (35%).

Purchasing power is the second-highest concern (21%), also higher among more numerous categories (employees at 27% and wage-earners at 25%). Finally, public debt and deficits were the top priority among 11% of French citizens, well ahead of other issues such as public health (6%), security (5%), the environment (4%), education (4%) and immigration (3%).

The significance of economic and social issues is now therefore beyond doubt, after several years of crisis and rising unemployment. In this context, opinions nonetheless seem balanced between personal (taxes) and social (unemployment) concerns, but also based on the appreciation of various political choices to be made following May 6. In any case, the credibility of candidates on these issues, and their capacity to provide a convincing basis for their economic choices, will prove crucial in the second round.