France's Hollande and pro-reform allies get poll boost

Reuters News
Posted: Dec 19, 2014 10:05 AM

PARIS (Reuters) - French President Francois Hollande saw his popularity ratings jump five points in a month to a still lackluster 25 percent in a poll released on Friday, with pro-reform ministers in his Socialist government also gaining.

The Dec 17-18 survey by pollster BVA still left him the least popular president in its records but was nonetheless his best score since his party was trounced in European and local elections in the first half of 2014 as voters punished him for tax rises and a failure to combat rising unemployment.

Hollande's presidential image benefited from his surprise visit to Russia's Vladimir Putin in Moscow this month to call for a de-escalation of the Ukraine crisis, and the release of a French hostage held by Islamists in the Sahel, BVA said.

A speech this week in which he cited the positive effects of immigration also burnished his credentials among left-wing voters, it said. A full 74 percent of Socialist backers now had a good opinion of him, up nine points in the month.

Both his Prime Minister Manuel Valls and Economic Minister Emmanuel Macron, the architects of a reform bill aimed at de-regulating key sectors of the economy, loosening laws on Sunday trading and streamlining labor regulations, were also up.

Macron, an ex-merchant banker held in deep mistrust by the left-wing of the Socialist Party, gained six points to 39 points over the month. Former labor minister Martine Aubry, an opponent of the de-regulation drive, fell five points to 25.

The poll ratings can be highly volatile and differ between one institute and another. However, Hollande also gained five points to 21 percent in a separate Odoxa survey released earlier this week in which Valls also added eight points to his ratings.

France is under pressure from EU partners to reform its economy, the second largest in the euro zone, after it again conceded it would miss targets to cut its public deficit in 2015. The European Commission has said it will judge the efforts of Hollande's government early next March.

(Reporting by Mark John; editing by John Irish)