January 17, 2015 / 5:38 PM / 4 years ago

France's Hollande sees popularity jump after attacks

PARIS (Reuters) - French President Francois Hollande’s popularity has surged to its highest level in nearly a year and a half after the deadly Islamist attacks in Paris - albeit from near record lows, a poll showed on Saturday.

French President Francois Hollande gestures as he delivers a speech to foreign ambassadors during a New Year wishes ceremony at the Elysee Palace in Paris January 16, 2015. REUTERS/Jacques Brinon/Pool

Hollande, the most unpopular leader in modern French polling, has been broadly praised in the media and by analysts for his handling of the attacks.

His popularity rating has jumped to 34 percent, from 24 percent before the attacks, according to a BVA poll. That marked his best rating since May 2013.

Hollande rushed to the site of the first attack on Jan. 7, where two Islamist militants stormed the offices of satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo and killed 12 people.

Four people were also killed by another gunman during a hostage-taking in a Kosher deli.

The following Sunday, Hollande led a march with other world leaders that mobilized what some commentators said was the biggest crowd in Paris since its liberation from Nazi Germany in 1944.

The poll boost was not limited to Hollande. His Prime Minister Manuel Valls has seen his popularity climb to 44 percent from 35 percent before the attacks.

The improved image is a political boon for Hollande and his government as parliament begins debating a contested bill aimed at injecting more competition into the struggling economy.

It also offers some relief to Hollande’s Socialist Party, which has been bracing for heavy losses in regional district elections due in March.

The poll showed that the party’s popularity had risen above that of the far-right National Front, which has struggled to formulate a coherent response to the attacks, for the first time since May 2014.

The poll for Orange and ITELE was conducted on Jan. 13-14. Nearly 1,300 people were questioned over the Internet after having been solicited by telephone.

Reporting by Leigh Thomas; editing by Andrew Roche

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