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What The Electoral Landscape Looks Like In Germany, Japan, France And Canada

Welcome to Pollapalooza, our weekly polling roundup.

Poll(s) of the week

Last weekend, President Biden attended the annual gathering of the Group of 7, which discussed different ways to address pressing economic and security issues. And although the world leaders gathered didn’t necessarily see eye-to-eye on every issue, a Pew Research Center survey found going into the G7 meeting that respondents in the six other member countries — Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and the United Kingdom — had far more confidence in Biden than former President Trump and held far more favorable views of the U.S. now that Biden is in office.

Yet the poll respondents in at least three of those countries will be making important decisions about their own political leadership in the next year, so it’s possible Biden will see some different faces when the G7 next gathers in 2022. Germany and Japan will hold parliamentary elections later this year, while France’s next presidential election is in April 2022. Additionally, Canada could also hold its parliamentary election fairly soon, too. So FiveThirtyEight is going international today, taking a look at the electoral landscape in these four countries and what it could mean for U.S. allies going forward.

First up, Germany, as its election ensures there will be at least one new G7 leader the next time they meet. Longtime Chancellor Angela Merkel plans to step down after the Sept. 26 vote for the lower house of Germany’s parliament, the Bundestag. Germans will cast two votes in this election, one directly for a candidate and one for a party, as half the seats are elected based on candidate preference in single-member districts while the other seats are allocated proportionally based on a party-preference vote. And the leader of the party that wins the most seats often ends up leading the next government, although that’s not always the case.

Currently, polls suggest that the center-right alliance of Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union and the Christian Social Union1 are favored to remain the largest faction in parliament. Politico’s polling average puts the CDU/CSU alliance at 27 percent, and as such, Armin Laschet, who is Merkel’s successor as the CDU’s leader, appears to be the most likely next chancellor. That’s not a given, though, as there’s uncertainty about Germany’s next governing coalition. Five parties are polling between 10 and 30 percent, so it’s very unlikely that one party will win an outright majority. But should the CDU/CSU end up with the most seats, it could find itself with a new governing partner. The left-leaning Greens are polling in second around 20 percent and could supplant the more labor-oriented Social Democrats — who are polling around 15 percent — as the largest party on the left side of the German political spectrum


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That said, it’s early yet, and the CDU/CSU could find themselves once again working with the Social Democrats, with whom they’ve partnered for much of Merkel’s time as chancellor. There is also the possibility the classically liberal Free Democrats, who are now polling above 10 percent in Politico’s average and are Laschet’s preferred coalition partner, gain enough seats to work alone with the CDU/CSU. The biggest wild card is how the far-right and xenophobic Alternative for Germany, which is polling around 10 percent, fares come September as it’s unlikely that any of these parties would form a governing coalition with it.

Meanwhile, Japan must hold an election for its House of Representatives by late October. Like Germany, the country uses a mixed-member electoral system, with about 60 percent of members elected from individual districts and the rest elected proportionally by a party-preference vote. The biggest question here is whether Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga is able to keep the conservative Liberal Democratic Party in power. (This is Suga’s first election since he became prime minister last September.) The LDP has governed Japan for most of the past 65 years, and polls suggest it is favored to once again win the most seats later this year. However, Suga’s government has been criticized for its handling of COVID-19, and the LDP lost a handful of special elections in April. The largest opposition party, the center-left Constitutional Democratic Party, hopes to gain ground and is even eyeing cooperation with the Japanese Communist Party to improve the chances of an anti-LDP coalition. However, Suga’s saving grace may be that political opposition is weak and splintered across a number of parties, making it challenging to overcome the LDP.

Two Joe Biden images facing different ways. One is in orange, the other is green. Behind them are two divergent but mirrored graph lines, one orange and one green.

related: How Popular Is Joe Biden? Read more. »

Unlike Germany and Japan, France has a presidential system — although not quite like the U.S.2 — but President Emmanuel Macron and his centrist Republic on the Move party will face a test next April as Macron seeks reelection. To win, a candidate must win a majority of the vote, and if no candidate does, there’s a runoff two weeks later. But Politico’s polling average currently shows no candidate remotely close to winning a majority. Macron is averaging 26 percent, which puts him neck-and-neck with far-right nationalist candidate Marine Le Pen of the National Rally party, who is at 27 percent. The next-closest contender is polling in the low double-digits, so a Macron-Le Pen runoff appears to be the likeliest scenario.

If that match up sounds familiar, that’s because in 2017 Macron defeated Le Pen by about a two-to-one margin in a runoff. But polling testing a potential Macron-Le Pen rematch suggests it could be much closer this time around — recent runoff polls put Macron only ahead by 6 to 8 percentage points. The fact that the race is so close likely reflects how much Macron has struggled with handling the coronavirus pandemic and labor unrest during his tenure. His approval rating is just south of 40 percent, according to Politico. Meanwhile, Le Pen has worked to broaden her appeal by retreating from her previous views that France should stop using the euro as its currency and that it should leave the European Union altogether. It’s early yet, but the anticipated Macron-Le Pen runoff could have huge consequences for France’s domestic and international politics given the daylight between the two.

Lastly, Canada doesn’t officially have an election on the docket yet, but an election could happen in the near future because Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s ruling Liberal Party leads a minority government — that is, it has the most seats in Canada’s House of Commons, but not an actual majority, which makes governing tricky. While the Liberals lead most polls and appear likely to win the most seats, they aren’t assured a majority. Trudeau’s approval rating sits in the mid-40s due to mixed reviews over his handling of COVID-19 and a number of scandals in his government. In fact, if there’s a vote soon, the Liberals could find themselves in the same position as after the 2019 election, when they won the most seats but lost the outright majority they won in 2015 during Trudeau’s first election as party leader. Forecasters at 338Canada3 currently project the Liberals most likely seat total to fall just shy of a majority, while the CBC’s Poll Tracker forecast puts them right around the majority mark of 170 seats. An election would be triggered if Trudeau asks Canada’s governor general to dissolve Parliament, which could happen if Trudeau’s government loses a vote of no confidence or if Trudeau tells the governor general that an election is needed because the opposition has made it impossible to govern.

So while 2021 and early 2022 won’t see many major state and federal elections in the U.S., make sure to look abroad to our country’s key international partners, as it’s possible there will be some big changes in the next year.

Other polling bites

  • With the threat from COVID-19 somewhat fading as people get vaccinated, many Americans who were able to work remotely during the pandemic are returning to in-person work. But a new CBS News/YouGov survey found that a majority of Americans don’t necessarily want to return to the office full-time: 31 percent of working Americans would prefer to work from home going forward, and another 26 percent would prefer a mixture of remote and on-site work. But 43 percent said they still preferred working at their workplace the most.
  • The Summer Olympics in Tokyo start on July 23, and Morning Consult found that American sports fans are about as interested in women’s sports as men’s sports at the Games. Overall, 67 percent of sports fans said they were interested in women’s Olympic events while 69 percent were interested in men’s Olympic sports. This is a far more even level of engagement between men’s and women’s sports than in professional and collegiate sports in the U.S. This may be related to the high profiles of female Olympians. According to an earlier Morning Consult survey, the Olympic athletes with the greatest name recognition among those surveyed were all women: Serena Williams, Simone Biles, Megan Rapinoe and Katie Ledecky.
  • A YouGov survey asked Americans what age they expect to have saved enough money to comfortably retire, and the results found three main groups: Those who thought they’d retire before they hit age 60 (18 percent), those who thought they’d stop working at age 65 (13 percent) and those who thought they’d either be older than 70 or would never be able to retire (23 percent). Younger respondents were more bullish on retiring early, as 19 percent of respondents ages 18 to 24 and 25 percent of those ages 25 to 34 said they would retire before they hit age 60, whereas about 15 percent of those 35 and older said the same thing. Conversely, older respondents were more bearish, as 27 percent of those ages 35 to 44 and 33 percent of those ages 45 to 54 thought they wouldn’t retire until they got past 70 or would never do so at all, compared to fewer than 20 percent of those below age 35.
  • Next Tuesday is primary day in New York City’s mayoral race, and most recent polls show Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams leading in first-choice votes in the city’s new ranked-choice voting system. But there’s plenty of uncertainty about how the RCV process will play out in a pretty volatile race. For instance, the two most recent full RCV polls not associated with a candidate showed a very close race between Adams and former New York City Sanitation Commissioner Kathryn Garcia after all ranked-choice votes were allocated. First, GOP pollster Public Opinion Strategies polled on behalf of the Manhattan Institute and found Garcia edging out Adams 52 percent to 48 percent after vote reallocation. But PIX11/NewsNation/Emerson College found the reverse outcome after reallotment, with Adams winning about 52 percent to Garcia’s 48 percent. We’ll have to wait and see how the primary plays out, but be ready to wait a while, as the city doesn’t expect to start tabulating the ranked-choice votes until July 12.
  • Pew recently found that religiously unaffiliated Americans were more likely to oppose the death penalty for those convicted of murder than those affiliated with a Christian denomination, although there were sizable variations within different groups. Majorities of atheists and agnostics, for instance, expressed opposition to the death penalty, while 37 percent of those who otherwise didn’t identify with a religious group also opposed it. Meanwhile, only 23 percent of white evangelical Protestants and 27 percent of white Protestants who aren’t evangelical opposed the death penalty, and more than 70 percent of each group favored it. But Black Protestants had more evenly split feelings about the death penalty, as 47 percent opposed it and 50 percent favored it.
  • USA Today and Suffolk University are partnering to survey residents in cities around the country to gauge attitudes toward law enforcement after a year of major incidents of police violence across the country, most notably the murder of George Floyd. The first poll surveyed the people of Milwaukee, and found that 61 percent said the city’s police were doing only a fair or poor job, compared to 35 percent who said they were doing an excellent or good job. But there were racial splits on this question, with 81 percent of Black respondents saying the police were doing a fair or poor job, while white Milwaukeeans were more evenly divided, with 46 percent saying the police were doing an excellent or good job and 49 percent saying they were doing a fair or poor job.

Biden approval

According to FiveThirtyEight’s presidential approval tracker,4 51.9 percent of Americans approve of the job Biden is doing as president, while 42.0 percent disapprove (a net approval rating of +9.9 percentage points.) At this time last week, 53.0 percent approved and 40.6 percent disapproved (a net approval rating of +12.4 points). One month ago, Biden had an approval rating of 52.7 percent and a disapproval rating of 40.7 percent (a net approval rating of 12.0 points).


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‘I buy that rank choice voting’ will change the outcome of NYC mayoral race: Silver

Footnotes

  1. The CSU is essentially the CDU’s sister party and operates only in the German state of Bavaria.

  2. France has what’s called a semipresidential system as the French president has no veto power and must share governing duties with the French prime minister who leads France’s parliament.

  3. A familiar-sounding moniker for those of us at FiveThirtyEight, but in this case it refers not to electors, but to the number of seats, or “ridings” in Canadian parlance, in the House of Commons.

  4. As of 5 p.m. Eastern on Thursday.

Geoffrey Skelley is an elections analyst at FiveThirtyEight.

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