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PARIS – He has shunned older, traditional media like Le Monde and Libération to speak to “Brut,” “Jeuxvideo.com,” and “The Big Whale,” three websites for trendy millennials and PlayStation gamers.
And on Friday, French President Emmanuel Macron talked on public radio about his soft spot for French rapper Orelsan, who is known for his sharp social observations, and gave a 45-minute interview to the website “Booska-P,” which claims to be the “reference site for young urbanites’ culture.”
In a final dash before Sunday’s presidential election runoff, Macron – who has a healthy lead in opinion polls – has gone for the look of a cool, 44-year-old president of his time. But above all, he is making a late push for the youth vote, a part of the electorate he has struggled to win over.
Earlier this month, many young people either abstained or voted for the far-left candidate Jean-Luc Mélenchon in the first round of the presidential election.
“There is a perception among young people that Macron has not conducted any policy that is in favor of youth,” said Jean-Daniel Lévy, political and polling director at analytics firm Harris Interactive. “They feel that he did not embody their concerns on the environment… he did not speak about it, he did not act on it.”
“There is sometimes recognition, but there is no desire for Macron,” Lévy added, calling the president “a young-old.”
Though France is an aging country, there are more than 15 million voters aged between 20 and 39 years, according to the Insee statistics institute in Paris. As the campaign has gone on, Macron has given more interviews to outlets for millennials and has visited areas populated by younger voters.
In the northern Paris commune of Saint-Denis, Macron this week discussed immigration and headscarves with a young, diverse and predominantly working-class community that heavily backed Mélenchon in the first round of the election.
In Jeuxvideos.com, one of France’s leading video game websites, the president paid tribute to several French video game developers including Ubisoft, Quantic Dream and Ankama, noting that “few countries have jewels like we do.”
In the “The Big Whale,” a new online platform specialized in blockchains and cryptocurrencies, Macron said Web 3, a new kind of decentralized internet service, was “an opportunity that can not be missed,” and described “esports,” or electronic sports, as “another French field of excellence,” citing esports teams like Team Vitality and Karmine Corp.
Talking to Booska-P, Macron was quizzed on police and sexual violence, Islamophobia and job insecurity for younger people.
Despite hanging with the kids and talking rap and technology, Macron has struggled to cut through and appeal to younger voters on their key concerns such as climate change and social inequality.
A recent Ipsos poll found that nearly half of those aged between 18 and 24 years and between 25 and 34 years did not vote in the first round of the election on April 10. At the last election, in 2017, more than 25 percent of those aged between 25 and 29 years failed to cast their votes in either of the two rounds.
In the first round, younger voters flocked to Mélenchon, while far-right candidate Marine Le Pen, Macron’s opponent in Sunday’s runoff, won wider support than the president among voters aged between 25 and 64 years.
Mélenchon’s proposals to end nuclear power, industrial farming and pesticides struck a particular chord among young people, and his defense of a cultural blend among different communities in France resonated with young French immigrants.
The veteran far-left leader also triumphed in big French suburbs, taking more than 60 percent of the votes in Saint-Denis, and 40 percent in the Seine-Saint-Denis department, which has one of the youngest populations in France.
By contrast, Macron’s proposals on climate change do not seem to have convinced younger voters.
Last month, Action Climate Network, a federation of national and local associations defending climate change, issued a critical study on Macron’s policy proposals.
We find ourselves with two people who do not take the climate crisis seriously: Marine Le Pen, for whom it is a non-issue, and Emmanuel Macron, who speaks about it less [today] than five years ago, ”Camille Etienne, a 23-year-old climate activist, told HuffPost.
FRANCE PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION POLL OF POLLS
For more polling data from across Europe visit POLITICO Poll of Polls.