Differential abstention, a software for deciphering elections | EUROtoday

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History of an idea. An idea that sheds mild on the legislative elections of June 30 and July 7, differential abstention materializes when, on election day, one political camp abstains greater than one other. Or, a definitional variant, when one social class mobilizes lower than one other: employees lower than executives; younger individuals lower than outdated individuals… “In an increasingly abstentionist France, the differences in participation between electorates play a crucial role”analyzes Patrick Lehingue, professor on the University of Picardy. On December 28, 2021, an article by Release titled: “Differential abstention, key to the 2022 presidential election”.

Interest within the phenomenon will not be new. As early as 1913, in his Political desk of Western France (Armand Colin), The pioneer of electoral sociology, André Siegfried, questioned the conclusions drawn after the elections of 1881, 1893 and 1898. “The victory of the Republicans [gauche de l’époque] is not so much due to the genuine progress of the left as to the discouragement of its adversaries”he wrote.

The subject resurfaced in May 1981, when François Mitterrand, newly elected president, dissolved the National Assembly and arranged early legislative elections. Turnout was considerably decrease than in 1978, in the course of Giscardi's seven-year time period. And for good cause: these legislative elections, perceived as an act of validation of the presidential election, have been much less attention-grabbing.

A significant problem

“The socialist tidal wave then arouses lively controversy”, notes political scientist Bernard Dolez, lecturer at Paris-I Panthéon-Sorbonne. The dispute pits François Goguel, one of many founders of electoral geography and sociology, towards Jérôme Jaffré, a political analyst. “François Goguel, in terms close to Siegfried, explains the victory of the left by a collapse of participation on the right. Jérôme Jaffré maintains, on the contrary, that differential abstentionism – he is the only one of the three to use the word – is similar in both camps: the victory of the left results, according to him, from a rallying of the Giscardian electorate.”deciphers Bernard Dolez.

Behind these divergences, there are the truth is opposing strategies/definitions. Goguel adopts a temporal method: he notes that in 1981 the entire variety of votes obtained by the left didn’t enhance in comparison with 1978. The mobilization of a camp is in comparison with an expectation linked to earlier elections. As for Jaffré, he causes on D-Day, counting on opinion surveys that have been growing at the moment: he cross-references a query on partisan proximity with one other on the intention to vote. Identifying differential abstention is, as we are able to see, a serious problem. “It is a question, neither more nor less, of agreeing on the political reading of the results”insists Bernard Dolez.

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