Hollande election lead narrows to five points in poll

PARIS Thu May 3, 2012 12:37pm EDT

Francois Hollande, Socialist party candidate for the 2012 French presidential elections, attends an interview at the France Inter radio station studios in Paris May 3, 2012. REUTERS/Benoit Tessier

Francois Hollande, Socialist party candidate for the 2012 French presidential elections, attends an interview at the France Inter radio station studios in Paris May 3, 2012.

Credit: Reuters/Benoit Tessier

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PARIS (Reuters) - Socialist Francois Hollande's lead over President Nicolas Sarkozy for Sunday's election runoff narrowed to the smallest margin of any opinion poll so far in a survey conducted before and after their only televised debate.

The OpinionWay-Fiducial poll put Hollande at 52.5 percent, down 1.5 percentage points from April 24, with Sarkozy on 47.5 percent, up 1.5 percent, making a margin of five points.

An average of other recent polls gives Hollande a lead of between six and 10 points for the decisive second ballot against the conservative Sarkozy, whom he beat by 1.5 points in an April 22 first round between 10 candidates.

Being punished for a weak economy and an abrasive personal style, Sarkozy has been fighting an uphill battle for re-election and failed to land a game-changing blow on Hollande in Wednesday's debate, watched by 17.8 million people.

A daily opinion poll by Ifop-Fiducial put voting intentions unchanged at 53 percent to 47 percent in Hollande's favor.

Separately, a survey by LH2 of a sample of people who watched the TV debate found it had no effect on their voting intentions. Some 45 percent of respondents found Hollande more convincing and 41 percent preferred Sarkozy.

The Opinionway-Fiducial poll surveyed 2,009 people during Wednesday and Thursday, roughly half of them before the nearly three-hour debate and the rest afterwards.

(Reporting Vicky Buffery; Writing by Catherine Bremer; Editing by Paul Taylor)

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