May 5, 2017 / 7:31 AM / 2 years ago

French more polarized, extreme than other Europeans, poll suggests

FILE PHOTO: New official posters for the candidates for the 2017 French presidential election, Emmanuel Macron (L), head of the political movement En Marche !, or Onwards !, and Marine Le Pen (R), French National Front (FN) political party leader, are displayed in Fontaines-sur-Saone, near Lyon, France, April 30, 2017. REUTERS/Robert Pratta/File Photo

BERLIN (Reuters) - French voters are among the most polarized in the European Union, with one in five describing themselves as “extreme” and only about a third as “centrist”, a poll showed on Friday, days before the country’s presidential election.

The survey from the Bertelsmann Foundation also showed an unusually high level of dissatisfaction in France with the direction of the country, underscoring the challenge that a new president will face.

Independent centrist Emmanuel Macron will face off against Marine Le Pen of the far-right National Front on Sunday, the first time since the founding of the Fifth Republic nearly 60 years ago that neither of the main center-right and center-left parties are present in the runoff.

Polls show Macron is likely to defeat Le Pen by a margin of roughly 60 to 40 percent.

The Bertelsmann survey, conducted in March and based on the responses of 11,021 people across the EU, showed that 20 percent of French voters see themselves as either extreme right or extreme left, compared to just 7 percent in the wider EU.

Of those, 14 percent of French described themselves as extreme right.

Just 36 percent said they saw themselves as centrist, compared to 62 percent in the wider EU. Of those, 21 percent said they were center-left and 15 percent center-right.

The survey showed widespread dissatisfaction with the direction of policy in the country. Only 4 percent of far-right voters and 16 percent of far-left voters say they are satisfied.

The survey showed strong support for keeping France in the EU and the euro among far-left, center-left and center-right voters, with only far-right voters favoring a departure from the bloc and the single currency.

Reporting by Noah Barkin; editing by Ralph Boulton

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