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The results for the first round of the French presidential election, 2022, overall:

Candidate Score (%)
Macron 27.84%
Le Pen 23.15%
Mélenchon 21.95%
Zemmour 7.07 %
Pécresse 4.78%

The results for French living abroad:

Candidate Score (%)
Macron 45.09%
Le Pen 5.29%
Mélenchon 21.92%
Zemmour 8.67%
Pécresse 4.20%

The high score for Macron and the low score for Le Pen I can understand, considering what I think I know about the demographics of French living abroad. In cities like New York, London, and Frankfurt, the score for Macron exceeds 50% or even 60% in the first round, with the French living there probably mostly being well off, liberal, and international thinking, perhaps they're even bankers like Macron was. Conversely, the score for the right-wing populist Le Pen is very low.

What I don't understand is the relatively high score for Zemmour, who scores higher with French living abroad than with French overall. In France, Zemmour has less than 1/3rd of the votes that Le Pen has; abroad, he has more votes. Some strongholds are Miami (25% vs. Le Pen 7%), Bangkok (32% vs. Le Pen 11%), Haifa (41%), Tel Aviv (55%). Apparently, one of his talking points was/is against Islam or declaring it non-French ("immigrants should choose between Islam and France"), which may resonate with some Jewish French nationals in Israel, but the pattern is true also in the USA or East Asia. Even though his share of the vote is quite small in cities like London (5.2%) or Berlin (2.4%), it's still nearly double that of Le Pen in the same places.

In France, the only department where Zemmour outscores Le Pen is Paris, with 8.16% for Zemmour and 5.54% for Le Pen. Is it that Zemmour does better in cities and Le Pen better in rural areas, and does that explain both the Paris and the foreign result (probably most French living abroad live in or near cities)? But in Bordeaux, Toulouse, Lyon, Grenoble, or Strasbourg, Le Pen still outscores Zemmour, so that's not the full story. What is it about the political programme and/or the demographics of the voters of Le Pen and Zemmour that explains that Zemmour scores better in Paris and abroad, but Le Pen scores (much) better everywhere else?

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    You're talking about 8.67% vs 7.07% for Zemmour? (Ratio of that is 1.23) Much less striking than Macron's 45.09% to 27.84% (Ratio of that is 1.62). The real whopper there is Le Pen 5.29% to 23.15% (Ratio of 0.23 or 4.37 the other way around). From your own text, Zemmour might not come across as anti-Semitic, but that's probably harder for Le Pen to shake off, due to past associations with her father etc. I suspect expats read and care less about the recent stuff like inflation back home etc. Apr 13, 2022 at 23:09
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    @Fizz Less striking, but in case of Macron and Le Pen I can understand the difference. Part of the question is why the pattern for Zemmour is very different from the pattern for Le Pen, when, as far as I know, they are in the same corner of the political spectrum.
    – gerrit
    Apr 14, 2022 at 6:58
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    Not sure how much it plays a role, but note that participation seems to be much lower abroad than in France; Jerusalem and Tel-Aviv, for example, have barely 10% participation, and Haifa less than 6%.
    – Arnaud D.
    Apr 14, 2022 at 9:30
  • @ArnaudD. The low turnout is true, and explained by the fact that those cities cover not only the French living in those cities, but also in a wide region around it. There appear to be only four voting places in all of Canada, with none between Vancouver and Toronto. I wouldn't vote either if I had to travel more than 1000 km each way to do so… (should be less extreme in Israel, but even 50 km each way may be too much for many people). Whether it affects the relative results between candidates — no idea.
    – gerrit
    Apr 14, 2022 at 10:11
  • @gerrit I think the document you've linked also reports vote by Internet and mail as part of the votes received by each consulate (though I don't know if each consulate offers the same options). The four voting places for Canada all have turnout around 35%, much higher than the ones in Israel (but still much lower than France).
    – Arnaud D.
    Apr 14, 2022 at 10:21

3 Answers 3

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Disclaimer: this answer is an hypothetical interpretation, there is probably not objective answer.

The profile of French living abroad is quite diverse, so it's impossible to answer for sure. However there are a few general characteristics compared to the general French population: French living abroad are generally more educated and richer, and naturally less interested in domestic issues.

This point certainly explains Marine Le Pen's (MLP) low score (5.3% vs 23.1% national): the Rassemblement National has clearly followed a populist strategy in the past two decades, appealing to people with a low SES background and education. This has been a progressive transition from the previous approach personified by Jean-Marie Le Pen, which was a more "hardcore" far-right vision, with an obvious (occasionally explicit) racism component. MLP succeeded in this strategy, and nowadays even objects to being labelled "extreme-right". But this strategy is clearly not targeted towards French living abroad, who tend to have good jobs, money and education. Hence her very low score abroad.

But there is still an electorate for extreme-right ideas, and Eric Zemmour clearly positioned himself on these: he's been sentenced several times for inciting racial hatred, he agrees with the Great Replacement conspiracy theory, he proposed banning non-French names, etc. He doesn't particularly appeal to low SES, practically he appeals directly to racist voters. A significant proportion of French living abroad appears to share his views, most notably outside Europe.

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considering what I think I know about the demographics of French living abroad […] with the French living there probably mostly being well off, liberal, and international thinking, perhaps they're even bankers like Macron was.

There is no evidence that French citizens living abroad are “liberal”. In fact, it was speculated that the new electoral districts granting them representation in the National Assembly (lower chamber of parliament) were specifically created because they would be safe seats for the conservative right (with a couple of exceptions like South America). The results of the first election in 2012 (in which many districts including North America went to the center left) was widely regarded as a surprise and quickly reversed (in North America it happened as soon as 2013 in a by-election).

The notion that the upper class is naturally more “open” or “internationally thinking” is also a staple of a certain reading of recent political trends, blaming the poor for the rise of far-right parties and lumping them together with some left-wing parties under the label “populism”. Actually, Jean-Luc Mélenchon, the main (far) left candidate in this election was a lot more vocal than Macron in denouncing racism or anti-Muslim sentiment so you cannot equate favorable views of, say, NATO or the EU with openness in general.

It's also instructive to consider the differences between Zemmour and Le Pen. Both clearly sit on the far right but Le Pen took pains to soften her image and talked a lot about retirement pensions or purchasing power. Meanwhile, Zemmour's campaign was explicitely and unabashedly racist; immigration and especially Islam is literally all he talked about. If you look at the results you mentioned but also the vote he got in the posh west of Paris (Paris 16th or 8th districts, Versailles, Neuilly-sur-Seine, etc.), it seems a lack of openness never was what well-off educated French voters didn't like about the far right. As long as this racism is presented by someone who is polished enough and doesn't look like an outsider or a troublemaker, it is perfectly acceptable. Living abroad doesn't make a huge difference in that respect.

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    I'm not so much thinking the upper class are more internationally thinking, but that French living abroad are more internationally thinking compared to those living in France. At least the more radical part of the labour movement is classically international (the communist life song is even called "The Internationale"). And isn't the very large support for Macron among French living abroad evidence that French living abroad are more liberal, him representing the liberal party, after all? (NB: I mean liberal in the French/European meaning, not the confusing American meaning)
    – gerrit
    Apr 23, 2022 at 19:27
  • @gerrit French living abroad are also well-off and as I explained many voted for the conservative party. I misinterpreted your use of the word liberal but none of this precludes support for Zemmour, who scored very well in affluent conservative districts. Indeed, Zemmour wasn't particularly for or against free trade or free market, his focus was entirely on racism and social values. So his result is only really surprising if you subscribed to the reasoning I described.
    – Relaxed
    Apr 23, 2022 at 19:42
  • I don't know what you meant by “internationally-minded" but I think this phrase is ill-defined and typical of the same kind of reasoning, implying that well-off educated people are naturally more open and that far-right ideas only appeal to the working class. You're completely right about the traditions of the labour movement but that's exactly what's being discounted when you interpret a racist candidate like Zemmour as “populist“. If you shake off this idea, the contradiction disappears.
    – Relaxed
    Apr 23, 2022 at 19:55
  • @Relaxed: "Well-off and educated people" are generally pro-EU, which is is generally easier to quantify in research than "internationally-minded". For France and other founding members, the EU open market has increased wage inequality as those with low-paying jobs feel more competition from new Eastern European countries. Now, Le Pen was viewed as anti-EU which might have hurt her, but this last bit I'd need to research (she lost today - we'll see analysis in the next weeks why)
    – MSalters
    Apr 24, 2022 at 22:44
  • @MSalters That's a lot of shortcuts and simplification. In any case, it would be wrong to think that being generally more favorable to the EU translates to being insensitive to every idea associated with the far right (as this notion of being “internationally minded“ might suggest), and vice versa. That's the gist of my answer. Also, beware of the ecological fallacy, a higher level of support for the EU in one group doesn't mean that every single person in that group thinks that way. If you consider all this, I don't think the results are particularly surprising.
    – Relaxed
    Apr 25, 2022 at 7:39
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I think that the difference is more due to the party structures than to the difference in the voters profile. Zemmour is more a media phenomenon, while Le Pen is backed by a party with a stronger base on the ground. The FN has been present for decades on the territory, is well known and currently controls many local administrations. So, I would say that French abroad don't differ very much from those living in France, but they are less connected to the local politics.

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