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Polls predict shift right by French Catholics in EU election

French Catholics are predicted to shift to the right when they vote in European elections this Sunday. 

Marion Maréchal, the lead European Parliament candidate for France’s Reconquest party. Gage Skidmore via Wikimedia (CC BY-SA 2.0).

According to a research paper by Claude Dargent, a professor at the Paris 8 University Vincennes-Saint-Denis, 42% of Catholics are expected to vote for parties frequently described as far-right.


Voters across the European Union — a political and economic union of 27 countries — will go to the polls June 6-9 to elect representatives to the European Parliament, the EU’s law-making body.

Ballots cast by the more than 400 million eligible voters will also influence the composition of the European Commission, the EU’s executive branch, including the choice of its next president.

Observers forecast that right-wing and far-right parties will make gains in the first European Parliament election since Brexit, the U.K.’s withdrawal from the EU.

French citizens will vote June 9 for the country’s 81 out of the total 720 seats in the European Parliament, choosing from candidate lists presented by a record 38 political parties.

A survey conducted by the pollster Ipsos in April questioned a representative sample of the French population about their voting intentions.

They were asked if they would vote for left-wing candidates listed by parties such as the Socialists, or those of Renaissance (RE), a centrist party associated with President Emmanuel Macron, the Republicans (LR), a liberal conservative party, National Rally (RN), a nationalist and right-wing populist party, or Reconquest (R!), another nationalist party founded by the writer Éric Zemmour.

Both the National Rally and Reconquest parties are widely described as far-right and also eurosceptic, or critical of European political institutions and moves toward closer continental-level integration. 

The Ipsos poll found that 24% of French Catholics intend to vote for the left-wing parties, 19% for Renaissance, 9% for the Republicans, 36% for National Rally, 6% for Reconquest, and the remainder for other parties.

The survey suggested that Catholics were more likely to vote for the National Rally and Reconquest parties than their Protestant counterparts (20% for RN and 4% for R!), as well as the overall French population (31% for RN and 5% for R!).

When the results were limited to practicing Catholics, 24% said they intended to vote for the left-wing parties, 19% for Renaissance, 11% for the Republicans, 31% for National Rally, 7% for Reconquest, and the remainder for other parties.

In his analysis, published in May, Claude Dargent noted that practicing Catholics were less likely to vote for National Rally than non-practicing ones (31% compared to 41%).

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“On the other hand, the opposite is true of the Reconquest electorate, supported by Éric Zemmour,” he wrote. 

“As religious practice intensifies, this vote increases: 9.5% among regularly practicing Catholics and up to 11% among French people who go to Mass every week, whereas it concerns only 6% of Catholics as a whole.”

One possible reason for this trend could be that Marion Maréchal, the lead European Parliament candidate of the Reconquest party, identifies as a practicing Catholic.

In May, she gave a speech at Domrémy-la-Pucelle, St. Joan of Arc’s birthplace in northeastern France.

Addressing France’s patron saint, she said: “It is here, in front of your basilica, at the foot of your statue, that I appeal to you, Joan of Arc, figure of hope. Help us, the French, to find the energy and strength to continue our country’s glorious history.”

Maréchal was also photographed at this year’s record-breaking pilgrimage to Chartres.

National Rally’s lead European Parliament candidate is Jordan Bardella, a 28-year-old with Italian ancestry who describes himself as a non-believer who respects people of faith.

The results of the 2024 Ipsos poll contrast with a survey conducted by the pollster Ifop for the Catholic newspaper La Croix the day after the last European Parliament election in 2019.

The 2019 poll found that 37% of Catholics voted for the unified list of La République En Marche! (LREM) and the Democratic Movement (MoDem), identified with President Macron, 22% for the Republicans, and 14% for National Rally. (Reconquest was founded after the 2019 elections).

Analysts noted a shift to the right among French Catholics during the country’s 2022 presidential election. 

The National Rally describes itself as a party that is “committed to the equality of all French citizens before the law, regardless of origin, race or religion,” and “defends the sovereignty, independence and identity of the nation.”

It says it wants to establish a “double border,” with checks both at the EU’s frontiers and France’s land borders, and to build a “European alliance of nations.”

Reconquest says it aims “to defend the national interest and promote the greatness of France.”

It wants to create a “triple border,” strengthening the frontiers of France and the EU, as well as entering into agreements with countries around the Mediterranean. It also seeks a Europe-wide ban on the Muslim Brotherhood, a Sunni Islamist organization.

Sébastien Maillard, a special adviser at the Jacques Delors Institute, a think tank in Paris, told the newspaper La Croix there was a generational divide among French Catholics. 

“Younger children are less affected by the direct history of the Second World War and the birth of European integration,” he said. 

“For their grandparents, on the other hand, it remains a project of reconciliation between peoples, notably French and German, which is truly the work of Christian democracy.”

The founding fathers of the EU included the devout Catholics Konrad Adenauer, Alcide de Gasperi, and Robert Schuman. In 2021, Pope Francis approved a decree advancing Schuman’s beatification cause.

But while the Catholic Church has consistently supported closer European integration, Church leaders expressed dismay at the EU’s decision not to refer to God in its constitution.

In March, French bishops’ conference president Archbishop Éric de Moulins-Beaufort urged voters to turn out for the European Parliament election. 

He described the EU as “not just an economic or commercial union,” but also “a spiritual adventure.”

“Our vote on June 9 must not be a vote for Europe to renounce its universal responsibility, nor a vote for our country to renounce its responsibility to the whole world,” he said. 

“Rather, it should be a vote that demonstrates our commitment to serving the freedom to think, act, and work together, of our country and all countries.”

In neighboring Germany, Church leaders are actively urging Catholics not to vote for parties deemed far-right.

In February, Germany’s bishops unanimously approved a statement saying: “We appeal to our fellow citizens, including those who do not share our faith, to reject and repudiate the political offers of the far right.” 

The bishops said that the Alternative for Germany (AfD) party — which is expected to make gains in the European Parliament election — was “now dominated by a racial-nationalist attitude.”

They underlined that “the dissemination of right-wing extremist slogans — including racism and anti-Semitism in particular — is incompatible with professional or voluntary service in the Church.”

In a message issued this week, the head of the Commission of the Bishops’ Conferences of the European Union (COMECE) urged voters to support “candidates and parties that will continue building a better Europe for all.”

Bishop Mariano Crociata said that Europe’s bishops acknowledged that “the EU is not perfect, but we want to improve it together using the democratic tools we have, starting with our right to vote.”

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