Research conducted by us at Redfield & Wilton Strategies in July indicates that a clear majority (56%) of French respondents feel that the worst of the coronavirus pandemic is yet to come in France.
We asked the same question to Italian, German and Spanish voters, and found that French respondents were the most likely across all four countries to express concerns about the future direction of the pandemic. In particular, we found that French respondents were twice as likely as Italian respondents to believe that the worst of the pandemic is yet to come.
French respondents (57%) – alongside Spaniards (60%) – are also among the most likely to be critical of their government’s handling of the crisis, with a majority saying that the government’s current actions to address the recent rise in coronavirus cases are falling far short.
A large plurality (49%) of those who voted for President Macron in the second round of the 2017 Presidential elections believe that the French Government is not doing enough to combat the rise in coronavirus cases in France.
On Friday 24th July, more than a thousand new cases were reported in France for the second day in a row. The R Rate currently stands at 1.3. To counter this increase in cases, firefighters, first aid workers, and caregivers are now authorised to test patients for Covid-19 symptoms. Perhaps as a result of increasing cases and a rise in the R Rate, a significant majority (70%) of French voters now believe that another round of lockdowns is likely to happen in France. It should be noted, however, that respondents might be expressing their belief that another round of local lockdowns (rather than a national lockdown) is likely.
The recently appointed Prime Minister, Jean Castex, has recently that France will strive to avoid the implementation of a second national lockdown, as the country’s economy would not be able to cope. If the number of coronavirus cases continues to rise, however, we found that a majority (54%) of French respondents would approve of a second national lockdown.
Face masks and social distancing have proven relatively effective measures in preventing a rise in coronavirus cases, which could ultimately help avoid a second lockdown. A large majority (71%) of French respondents stated that they continue to observe social distancing rules strictly.
Nevertheless, younger age groups were much less likely to observe social distancing rules than older members of the public – only 43% of those between the ages of 18 to 24 continued to observe social distancing rules strictly, compared to 81% of those above the age of 65.
Such generational disparities continued to be observed in our survey when respondents were asked whether they felt safe or unsafe doing certain activities. Indeed, while a majority of French voters felt safe leaving their home (54%), eating at a restaurant or drinking at a bar outside (51%), getting their hair cut at a barber or hair salon (57%) or visiting a friend’s house (56%), a significant proportion of older respondents feel unsafe engaging in these activities.
Importantly, almost half (46%) of respondents across all age groups do not feel safe leaving their home, suggesting that life has not completely returned to normal for many French people.
At the same time, only 38% of respondents answered that they always wear a mask to cover their mouth and nose when leaving their home. In contrast, 69% of Spaniards and 53% of Italians stated that they always wear a mask when they leave their home.
On Monday 20th July, the French Government announced that face masks would be compulsory in closed public spaces. The measure, which was originally intended to be implemented on August 1st, was brought forward in order to attempt to stem the rise in coronavirus infections. Failure to wear a mask in banks, supermarkets and other public buildings may result in a €135 fine. It remains to be seen whether this policy will increase mask usage in France.
At this stage, a large majority of respondents would not feel safe eating at a restaurant or drinking at a bar inside (59%), greeting a friend with a handshake (72%), going to the hospital for something unrelated to coronavirus (55%) or taking public transportation (76%).
Overall, our research indicates that the French public remains anxious about the future of the pandemic in the country, and a majority expects a second round of lockdown. We will continue to monitor public sentiment towards the pandemic and the Governmental response in the coming months