How Popular Is Emmanuel Macron? France's Liberal President's Approval Rating Plummets

Emmanuel Macron
French President Emmanuel Macron (right), with Tony Estanguet, co-president of the Paris candidacy for the 2024 Olympics, May 16. Gonzalo Fuentes/File Photo/Reuters

In retrospect, when French President Emmanuel Macron's aides compared his governing style to that of Jupiter, the distant, mighty king of the Roman gods, they might have borne an old adage in mind about the relationship between "pride" and "a fall."

For Macron, that fall—albeit possibly temporary—has arrived. Just over two months after the shock election victory that saw him hailed by liberals across the world, his approval rating has plummeted to 36 percent, with his net approval score set at -13 percent, according to a YouGov poll.

The approval score, which represents a sharp drop of 7 points on the last such survey, comes after a tricky month in which Macron has faced noisy opposition to government cuts to the military and ended up in a tussle with Italy over the nationalization of a formerly South Korean-owned shipyard.

Others in power fare little better: Prime Minister Edouard Philippe has an approval score one point higher than Macron, or 37 percent, while the government as a whole gets a positive rating from 33 percent of voters.

Macron now compares unfavorably with presidents of the past. At around the same point in their tenures, the Socialist François Mitterrand was on 48 percent approval while the center-right Nicolas Sarkozy was on 66 percent. Macron's immediate predecessor, François Hollande, ended up as the country's most unpopular president since World War II, yet enjoyed 56 percent approval at a similar point.

The domestic struggles also contrast sharply with Macron's sky-high reputation on the world stage. An annual study of soft power by Portland Communications this spring ranked France as the most powerful country in the world, above the U.S., in part because of optimism around Macron's victory. Macron has also deepened France's all-important relationship with Germany, regularly working in tandem with Chancellor Angela Merkel on issues like the euro and climate change.

But 49 percent of French people do believe that the government is "ready to make unpopular decisions if they are good for the country." That might be some comfort to Macron as he embarks on a whole load of unpopular decisions that he believes will be good for the country.

Parliament this week approved Macron's drive to liberalize the country's labor laws, a thorny issue that saw mass protests against Hollande. Meanwhile, September will likely see further outrage over cuts as Macron seeks to slash spending and bring his country's deficit down.