France will choose a president this year. Little more than two months away from the elections, the conservative president, Nicolas Sarkozy, is running behind the Socialist candidate, François Hollande. Several other candidates are polling well: Marine Le Pen of the extreme right-wing Front National hovers at about 20%, followed by the centrist candidate, François Bayrou, and by Jean-Luc Mélenchon, who represents a coalition of parties to the left of the Socialists.
A recent article in the newspaper Le Figaro announced that the French-Jewish vote falls mostly toward the right. During the previous election, held in 2007, it appears that a significant number of French Jews, particularly those living in Israel, voted for French President Nicolas Sarkozy. According to Jérme Fourquet, director of the French polling organization IFOP, there remains a “pronounced preference” for the right among French Jews. In fact, after observant Catholics, Jews (observant or not) represent the strongest pillar of support for Sarkozy. More than 40% plan to vote for the UMP, Sarkozy’s party, far outstripping the party’s general support, tottering at a feeble 26%.
Is it possible, then, that “Jewish vote” is, like “French toast,” a phrase that gets lost in translation somewhere over the Atlantic? Not surprising, there is little agreement on the answer. Arthur Goldhammer, a veteran commentator on French politics, thinks the term isn’t really an apt one for describing how French Jews vote.
“Among my French Jewish friends,” he observed, “the range of political attitudes is quite wide, much wider than among my American Jewish friends, all of whom are liberal democrats.” But, he noted, there is a far greater range of options in France. “Apart from the Front National,” he suggested, “there is nothing that is ‘beyond the Pale’ in the way that American Republicans have become for many Jews (although I suppose American neoconservative Jews stand as an exception to this rule).”