Frelections: Polling blowout

The first estimated results are in. 28.4% Hollande, 25.5% Sarkozy, 20% Le Pen, 11.7% Mélénchon, 8.7% Bayrou.

The final polls for Sarko were pretty much right, in the context of a margin of error of 1% either way. That makes him the only sitting president to lose the first round, ever. Hollande beat the spread by half a percentage point beyond the margin of error – which makes him the best scorer ever for the Left in a first round, and makes the polls look poor. The margin or error for the second-tier candidates is wider, more like 2 points either way. But with Le Pen coming in 4 percentage points over the last polls, 2 points out of the spread, and Mélénchon almost as far below the polls, it’s been a bad night for the pollsters. In fact, Le Pen beat her father’s record from 2002, and nobody predicted that.

French radio has already made the interesting point that Sarkozy had pursued a strategy of turning to the hard right in the final stages of the campaign, with a view to moving to the centre for the second round. This is a classic recipe for winning the two-round election, but it hasn’t been missed that it was Sarko’s adviser Patrick Buisson who suggested it, and he’s the former editor of the extreme right’s favourite magazine, Minute, one of many old extreme-rightists on Sarkozy’s staff. The problem is that he still needs to get the centre on board, but with 20% of the electorate to his right, he needs to cover that flank as well, which may well be impossible.

So, the Socialists and the FN won; Mélénchon, Sarkozy, and the pollsters lost.