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Why French far-right candidate Marine Le Pen is attracting youth

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A late March study from the CSA institute based on three surveys suggests Le Pen could even beat both Mr. Hollande and Mr. Sarkozy among young voters. According to the study, she ranked first among 18- to 24-year-olds with 26 percent of the vote, the newspaper Le Monde reported yesterday. Hollande and Sarkozy had 25 and 17 percent, respectively. 

A modern woman

Le Pen was preceded as leader of the National Front by her father, Jean-Marie Le Pen, who led the party until early 2011. He founded the party in 1972 and is known in France for his xenophobic and authoritarian positions. Always considered a fringe candidate, he never achieved the more mainstream appeal his daughter seems to have garnered in this election. Although Marine Le Pen has been accused of targeting France’s Muslim community in her speeches, most French see her as a less radical figure. 

Frédéric Dabi, the associate director general of IFOP, says Marine Le Pen has better ratings from young voters than from the electorate as a whole because her image as a modern candidate appeals to them. For them, her father represented an older, more traditional far right, according to Mr. Dabi.

“Marine Le Pen has very good ratings among young people. Why? Because she is different from her father,” Dabi says. “For this generation, there is a bigger proximity factor. She is a woman, she herself is young, she was born in 1968, she has children and she has a job. So there is an identification process that is stronger among young people.”

Saving French jobs

But Le Pen's strongest appeal is likely her opposition to current levels of immigration. Younger voters, particularly those who do not have a college education and are therefore more exposed to unemployment, often voice the concern that immigrants are taking the few jobs available to them in France's crisis-stricken economy. They see Le Pen's tough stance on immigration as a way to get jobs back. 

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