Election Intelligence: Comparing U.S. and French presidential races

For the past several months, we’ve been analyzing news, social media, polling data and other information in Netvibes’ live 2016 U.S. Presidential Election Dashboard. The U.S. election is now over, but France’s 2017 presidential election is heating up. To track that race, our colleagues in Netvibes’ Paris office have created a live dashboard for the 2017 French Election.

What can Dashboard Intelligence tell us about the different elections? Let’s dig into the data.

2017 French election dashboard

Overview of the French Election

The 2017 French election is currently in the primary process, which works much differently than in the U.S. In France, the primaries are optional and are run by each party in two rounds. France has a number of political parties, but only 2 major parties are running primaries this year: the Socialist party and the Republicans. The general election candidates for other major parties are already known, including: Marine Le Pen for the National Front, Emmanuel Macron, for his own movement, Jean-Luc Mélenchon for the Communist Party, Yannick Jadot for the Green Party, and likely more.

The Republicans held their primaries in late November, and the winner in a surprise landslide was François Fillon, a relatively unknown politician who beat out several favorites, including Alain Juppé and former French President Nicolas Sarkozy.

The Socialists will hold their two-round primary in the second half of January 2017. In a recent twist, current French President François Hollande announced he will not run for re-election in the Socialist primary (presumably due to his poor polling numbers at just 4%). Mr. Hollande is the first French President to not seek re-election since World War II–a reflection of the rising populist and anti-establishment sentiment we’ve seen in the U.S. election and across the EU.


Comparisons between U.S. and French Elections:

  1. Presidential approval ratings: Obama high, Hollande low

One of the big differences between the 2016 US Election and 2017 French Election is the popularity of sitting presidents. U.S. President Barack Obama has enjoyed high approval ratings throughout his tenure, and his approval ratings continued to rise in 2016 as we can see in this dashboard chart. At the end of October 2016, Obama’s approval rating was at 56% (Data source: Huffington Post)

Obama approval ratings 2014-2016


In contrast, French President Hollande is not well liked by his constituents. Over the course of 2016, Hollande’s ratings plummeted to a low of just 4%. (Chart source: Washington Post)


Approval ratings of Hollande


Given Mr. Hollande’s low approval ratings, it is little surprise he will not run for re-election in France. Mr. Obama, of course, was not eligible to run again in the United States due to term limits. Obama’s would-be-successor, Hillary Clinton, had lower approval ratings. Throughout 2016, Clinton remained “unfavorable,” never reaching 50%. As the race closed in November, Clinton’s favorability rating was at 41%, just barely ahead of Donald Trump at 39%.

Favorability: Clinton vs Trump


  1. Social and news mentions do not equal votes

During the first round of the French Republican primary in November, Netvibes analyzed the popularity of hashtags for #juppe and #fillon across social media. We found that #juppe was mentioned far more often than #fillon, by roughly 2-to-1. However, the actual voting results had the opposite outcome, with Fillon winning handily with 44.1% of the vote to Juppe’s 28.6%. (Read the full analysis, in French, on our blog).

Social hashtags: #fillon vs #juppe


In the U.S. election, we saw a similar pattern with Clinton and Trump. Throughout the race, Trump had far more mentions across news and social media than did Clinton. Although Trump won the election due to the U.S. Electoral College, it was Mrs. Clinton, in fact, who won the popular vote with 48.2%, compared to Trump’s 46.3%.

In both the French and American examples here, the candidate with fewer mentions actually got the most votes.

Clinton vs Trump mentions


  1. Top election issues in USA vs. France

When we compare the top election topics most often discussed across news and social media in the two countries, we find some common similarities but more differences between France and the U.S.

For the final month of the American presidential race (Oct. 8 – Nov. 8, 2016), the most-discussed election issues were:

  1. Foreign policy (4.58%)
  2. Healthcare (4.15%)
  3. Tax plans (2.88%)
  4. Climate change (1.65%)

All of these numbers are relatively low because candidate scandals, such as Clinton’s email, largely overwhelmed traditional election issues in news articles and social posts.

Election issues vs candidate scandals


When we look at the past month in France (Nov. 9 – Dec. 9, 2016), the most popular issues discussed are:

  1. Taxes (“Les impôts”) — 35.61%
  2. Islam — 20.35%
  3. Immigration — 16.28%
  4. Unemployment (“Le chômage”) — 13.25%

Top election issues in France


As we can see, Taxes are a top issue for both the French, who consider taxes their #1 issue, and the Americans, who had taxes at #3. However, while taxes take up a large percentage of the French conversation (35.61%), tax mentions were relatively rare among the American electorate, showing up in just 2.88% of U.S. articles and posts.

The other issues in the Top 4 list are completely different between the two nations: Islam, immigration and unemployment for France, while Americans were more focused on foreign policy, healthcare and climate change.


There is a lot more data in the dashboards, as well as many other election topics to discuss. Stay tuned to this blog as we dig into more insights around the American and European elections.

Want a free demo of Netvibes Dashboard Intelligence? Contact us.

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1 Comment

  • Reply voyages booth December 22, 2016 at 10:10 am

    The comparsion of Election Intelligence is showing in very informative way and Comparing U.S. and French presidential races.

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