Alexa

Poll: Centrists favor Royal for French presidency, though Sarkozy still ahead

Poll: Centrists favor Royal for French presidency, though Sarkozy still ahead

The centrist voters who hold the key to this weekend's French presidential elections prefer Socialist Segolene Royal over conservative Nicolas Sarkozy _ but not enough to cut into Sarkozy's lead, according to a poll released Monday.
With just five days left in the emotionally charged campaign in a restless nation, both candidates have sought to woo the voters who handed centrist lawmaker Francois Bayrou nearly 7 million votes and a strong third place in the first round of voting April 22.
Royal, seeking to be France's first woman president, courted the middle-ground vote in a televised debate with Bayrou on Saturday aimed at stressing their similarities, and suggested in a Sunday TV interview that she could offer him the prime minister's job.
A poll by TNS-Sofres released Monday projected that 41 percent of Bayrou's voters would choose Royal in Sunday's runoff, compared with 32 percent for Sarkozy.
But the overall lead still went to Sarkozy, with 52 percent to Royal's 48 percent. The last TNS-Sofres poll had them at 51-49. Other polls show Royal gaining in recent days but Sarkozy consistently holding the lead, as he has done since January.
Royal needs a much larger shift of support from Bayrou's camp to overtake Sarkozy. Bayrou himself has refused to endorse Royal but has fiercely criticized Sarkozy.
Both Royal and Sarkozy have promised to get France back on its feet after 12 stagnant years under Jacques Chirac _ but offer starkly different ways of doing that. Sarkozy would loosen labor laws and cut taxes, while Royal would hike government spending and preserve France's generous worker protections.
Royal pledged Monday to stage a national conference on economic growth to "reconcile the economic performance and social progress: This is what a modern country is."
The poll also showed widespread interest in a Royal-Sarkozy debate Wednesday, with 37 percent of respondents saying it could play a large role in the outcome.
If it reflects the recent tone of the campaign, the debate could be a confrontation of personalities as much as politics.
Royal has sought to capitalize on an "Anything But Sarkozy" movement grounded in fear that he is too impulsive and emotional for the job as head of state. Sarkozy has played the victim, while his aides have sought to portray Royal as wishy-washy and inexperienced.
At Sarkozy's last big Paris rally Sunday, he cast himself as a unifier and pledged to look out for the interests of ordinary citizens and the downtrodden.
Royal said Sarkozy's speech held "great violence and great brutality." Speaking Monday on France-2 television, she said, "France needs to be reconciled, to be soothed, the French need to unite to be able to pick themselves up."
The poll was conducted Thursday and Friday among 2,000 people nationwide by telephone, so it did not take into account any possible shift in opinion following Royal's weekend overtures to Bayrou. The margin of error would be plus or minus 3 percentage points.