REUTERS - Three-quarters of French voters have already made up their minds about Nicolas Sarkozy and will not be swayed by the election campaign, according to a poll released on Monday, suggesting the president may struggle to close a wide poll lag.
The survey by pollster Viavoice for left-leaning daily Liberation said that 74 percent of those questioned said they had already decided their opinion about the conservative leader. Only one-quarter of those were Sarkozy supporters.
The Viavoice survey said that those voters open to changing their minds were mostly from the far right and centre right.
Most polls show that while Sarkozy would finish second in an April 22 first round, he would lose a May 6 runoff against Socialist front runner Francois Hollande by at least 12 percentage points.
"The electoral equation appears very complicated for Sarkozy candidacy," said Francois Miquet-Marty, associate director of Viavoice. "He has not so far succeeded in shifting the balance of political power and has only a weak potential for winning people over."
Though Sarkozy received a poll bounce after launching his campaign in mid-February, recent polls have shown him losing ground. Hollande launched a proposal last week to tax those earning more than 1 million euros a year at 75 percent, and polls suggested two-third of voters supported the idea.
A survey released on Monday by pollster BVA for Le Parisien-Aujourd'hui en France newspaper showed that Hollande would win the second round runoff by 59 percent to Sarkozy's 41, increasing his lead by three percentage points since mid-February to 18 percentage points.
The Viavoice poll, conducted by telephone with a sample of 1,001 people, also showed 53 percent of those questioned thought the launch of Sarkozy's campaign had fallen flat.
The latest polls
A Sunday poll from LH2-Yahoo! forecast that Hollande would win the May 6 second round run-off with 58 percent of the vote to Sarkozy's 42, a margin of victory three points wider than in the same poll last month.
An earlier poll published Friday by the Ifop institute pointed in the same direction, with the gap between Hollande and Sarkozy in the first round of polling stretching to 3.5 percent, up from one percent the week before.
Most of those questioned said Hollande was the candidate more in tune with the concerns of ordinary French voters – 56 percent to Sarkozy's 26 percent. But the incumbent president scored much more highly than his rival in terms of statesmanship and ability to shine on the international stage.
The issue of Hollande's international credentials have jumped to the front of the campaign in recent days.
While Sarkozy's camp dismissed a weekend German press report that European leaders agreed to shun Hollande because of his plan to renegotiate a fiscal pact signed by 25 EU leaders, it has used the article as evidence of Hollande's inexperience and lack of diplomatic skill.