PARIS -- The people of France have spoken on the subject of the U.S. presidential election. Naturally, you couldn't care less about what anyone else (let alone the French) thinks about you or your electoral choices, right?
The French aren't particularly interested in appearing too keen on America, either. A Harris Interactive poll found that 66 percent of respondents either care little about the U.S. presidential race or not at all. However, should a gun be put to their head mid Gallic shrug, 88 percent of them would take Barack Obama, merci, with 10 percent choosing Mitt Romney.
When this modern-day underground French Resistance of 10 percent who dared to admit a preference for Romney (at great risk of being blacklisted from Parisian soirées) were asked to toss out some reasons why Romney was their choice, the most frequently occurring words included, in descending order of frequency: "Obama," "more," "change" and "did." So ironically, Romney now owns the term "change" -- at least in France. And apparently, he also has the resounding advantage of not being Obama.
Presumably, these 10 percent also have higher expectations than what they feel Obama has proven capable of delivering - hence the "more" reference - and credit Romney with a history of positive actions.
Those who would opt for another Obama term most frequently justified their choice with words like "president," "social," "did," "good" and "Romney." So Obama appears to benefit from already having his behind in the chair, from the fact that he isn't Romney, and for being seen as more social-welfare oriented. Also, they seem to think he "did" some "good" things.
But here's the kicker: While 60 percent of French Obama supporters feel "closer to Obama's values than those of Mitt Romney," only 36 percent believe that Obama is "competent," and a mere 14 percent believe that Obama is in the best position to find solutions to the fiscal crisis. These views can hardly be chalked up to party preference, either, since only 30 percent of Obama supporters said they preferred Democrats to Republicans.
Among the president's supporters, French men prefer Obama's values more than French women do, 63 percent to 58 percent. And only 4 percent of those who prefer Obama say that it's because he's black, with the most uneducated demographic expressing the highest degree of racial preference. The same least-educated demographic -- those lacking a high school diploma -- was also most likely to believe that Obama has a better shot at achieving world peace. The most educated respondents -- those with more than two years of post-secondary schooling -- were least likely to consider Obama competent.
Perhaps the weirdest aspect of the Harris Poll results is that voters who preferred center-right former French President Nicolas Sarkozy had a higher level of disagreement with Obama's values than Socialist French President Francois Hollande's voters, yet these respondents were almost twice as likely to find Obama "competent" as were Hollande supporters.
Maybe this is a sign that the French center-right has a greater tolerance for, and understanding of, the complexities of governance, having witnessed and sympathized with Sarkozy's perpetual struggle to enact even the most moderate French reforms in a system locked down by special interest groups, various domestic and international realities, and the mentality of the people themselves.
Hollande supporters were least likely to find Obama competent -- mirroring a similar discontent in France with Hollande himself, despite the fact that he was elected only five months ago. Another recent Harris Interactive poll found that only 55 percent of those who voted for Hollande in the presidential election feel he's doing a better job than Sarkozy would have done, and 40 percent of Hollande voters admitted that it wouldn't have made much difference if Sarkozy had been re-elected.
The lesson? It's not easy to please leftists. Their concept of the world exists on a cloud of marijuana smoke. Their pet politicians, spun from cotton candy, regale them with warm thoughts and fuzzy feelings -- until reality comes along and douses the whole works, forcing them to wake up to a sticky mess.
It's a lesson the French left and their sympathizers clearly haven't learned. Will American voters prove to be any more astute?
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