Hollande Is Most Unpopular French Leader Since 1981 on Economy

French President Francois Hollande
France's President Francois Hollande speaks at a meeting with Russian and French businessmen at an economic forum in Moscow today. Photographer: Alexander Nemenov/AFP Pool via Getty Images

President Francois Hollande’s popularity slipped this month as France’s economic slump rendered more people jobless, leaving him the most unpopular leader since 1981, a poll showed.

After nine months in office, Hollande’s approval rating fell five points to 30 percent, the poll for Figaro Magazine weekly by TNS-Sofres showed today. His predecessor Nicolas Sarkozy had a 37 percent rating at the same point in his presidency in March 2008. The small bump in popularity Hollande got from France’s military intervention in Mali has evaporated, the pollster said.

“Already at the start of Hollande’s presidency, there was little confidence in him, especially from opposition parties’ supporters,” Carine Marce a political analyst at TNS, said in an interview. “The positive effect of the war in Mali has vanished and news of low growth, high deficits and unemployment are accelerating the fall.”

The Socialist president is falling behind on nearly every economic pledge he’s made for 2013 -- from a 0.8 percent economic growth to shrinking the budget deficit to 3 percent of gross domestic product. Still, nothing is heaping more criticism on him, especially from his own supporters, than his inability to spur job creation as he promised.

Jobless claims rose last month to a 15-year high at 3.17 million, the labor ministry said Feb. 26. The increase brings such claims close to the country’s historic peak of 3.21 million in January 1997, with no signs they’ll fall any time soon.

Breaking Promises

The European Commission forecast last week that the French economy will expand 0.1 percent this year, far short of the government’s 0.8 percent goal. The Commission said it expect France’s unemployment to rise to 10.7 percent.

“Economic news coming from Brussels showed that he can’t keep up with his promises,” Marce said.

Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault’s approval rating fell five points to 28 percent, TNS said.

TNS-Sofres polled 1,000 respondents of ages 18 and more at their homes between Feb. 21 and 25. The Paris-based institute didn’t publish margins of error.

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