March 23, 2018 / 5:12 AM / a month ago

France's president sees popularity hit record low: poll

PARIS (Reuters) - French President Emmanuel Macron’s popularity has fallen to its lowest point so far in his presidency, a poll showed on Friday, a day after nationwide protests against his reform drive brought tens of thousands of public workers on the streets.

France's President Emmanuel Macron arrives at a European Union leaders summit in Brussels, Belgium, March 22, 2018. REUTERS/Francois Lenoir

Despite falling unemployment and a high profile internationally, the number of people with a favourable opinion of the 40-year-old former investment banker dropped three percentage points in March to 40 percent, the BVA poll showed.

That puts his popularity down 12 points since the end of last year, although it is no worse than it was for his predecessors Francois Hollande and Nicolas Sarkozy at the same point in their terms, BVA said.

Frustrated over Macron’s wide-ranging labour and welfare reforms, nurses, teachers and other public sector workers walked off the job on Thursday over concerns about his plans to cut their headcount and introduce merit-based pay.

Protesters also want to derail Macron’s plans to raise a special tax used to finance welfare which hits pensioners particularly hard, overhaul unemployment insurance and shake up the highly indebted state railway company.

Pensioners’ higher tax bill appears to be frustrating an age group with which he has done well so far. His popularity with voters over 65 years old fell below 50 percent for the first time in March, dropping to 47 percent.

Macron was elected last May on promises to push through reforms his predecessors stopped short of, refusing to align himself with traditional parties on the left and right.

Opinion polls indicate that though a majority of voters backed Thursday’s strike, an even bigger majority support the reforms.

The BVA poll was conducted among more than 1,000 people on Wednesday and Thursday for telecoms group Orange, RTL radio and website La Tribune. The margin of error is 2.5 percentage points.

Reporting by Leigh Thomas; Editing by Lisa Shumaker

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