France's Macron shrugs off fall in popularity among pensioners

French President Emmanuel Macron speaks with soldiers wearing camouflage as he attends a military exercise at the military camp of Suippes, near Reims, France, March 1, 2018. REUTERS/Yoan Valat/Pool

CHALONS-EN-CHAMPAGNE, France (Reuters) - French President Emmanuel Macron downplayed on Thursday his recent collapse in popularity among older voters, who have suffered the brunt of tax changes meant to favor those in work and revive the economy.

The 40-year old president, who swept to power last May, decided to cut workers’ payroll charges and offset some of the cost by raising a tax payed on all income, including pensions.

That means most French workers saw a small increase in their net salary on they January payslip, while a majority of pensioners have instead noticed a drop in their monthly pension payment.

“I know I’m asking for an effort from the oldest, that sometimes some of them grumble,” Macron told reporters after a pensioner complained to him on the sidelines of a visit to a military site in the east.

“It doesn’t make me popular but I won’t apologise for it,” he said.

Macron’s popularity rating has started falling again since the start of the year, after a brief recovery at the end of last year.

According to an Odoxa poll published on Feb. 27, his popularity dropped by 6 points to 43 percent in February, its lowest level since the election.

The drop was most pronounced amongst pensioners, with a 9 point drop.

“It really doesn’t matter to me,” Macron said. “I don’t comment on the ups and downs. There are people who have obsessed over that all their life, nothing is left of them. What counts is the work you do for the country.”

Reporting by Marine Pennetier; Writing by Michel Rose; Editing by Peter Graff