In 2017, Front National, a far-right party in France, came second in the presidential elections. Before that, in 2012 they achieved 17% of the first round vote. The 2016 European Social Survey allows us to analyse the characteristics of a sample of 2012 Front National voters, including relatively detailed statistics about their economic situation.
There is a consistent debate about whether support for the far right is a middle class/petite bourgeoisie phenomena, or a working class phenomena. To admit my biases, I came in hoping to find it was a middle class phenomena. In the case of FN though, and in this sample, the evidence simply cannot support this view. If the European Social Survey sample of FN voters is representative, FN appear to be, if anything, slightly more working class than average.
Income source/relation to the means of production
Front National members are no more or less likely to be wage & salary earners than other French voters (53.2 v 49.3%). They are also no more likely to be self-employed than other French voters (10.2% v 11.2%).
66% percent of FN voters are in the income deciles between 4th and 8th. Below these deciles representation is about proportional (only slightly less) to the population as a whole, but above them there is a marked tail off significant even given the small sample size. Basically, in our sample FN supporters came from all over the income distribution except the top.
Front National voters are slightly more likely to be anxious about their financial situation (26.4% found their situation ‘difficult’ or ‘very difficult’ versus 14.3% for the population as a whole).
Trade union membership
There is no significant difference in trade union membership between Front National voters in our sample and others.
Level of education
FN voters are decidedly less well educated than other voters, for example 46.4% of them only completed lower tier upper secondary compared to 25.4% for the rest of the nation.
FN voters are slightly less likely to be responsible for managing other workers than the population as a whole. (39.8% v 45.4%). The difference is non-significant.
From the perspective of class analysis there are always two main positions one can take with respect to supporters of the far-right.
1. They represent the reactionary middle classes.
2. They represent a misled section of the working class.
The evidence we have here strongly supports hypothesis 2 over hypothesis 1. Even if we appeal to heterodox approaches, like Erik Olin-Wright’s incorporation of education and managerial responsibility to class analysis, the Front National voters in the sample still remain actually very slightly more working class than the sample as a whole.
The need for a left-wing program, which unites and builds based on economic and class interests rather than phantasmagorical ‘national’ or ‘racial’ interests remains as urgent as ever.