2017 French election betting

In the wake of British voters choosing to leave the European Union and Donald Trump upsetting the political establishment in the United States, yet another vote with major implications quickly approaches. French voters will take to the voting booth on 7 May to choose which of two very different candidates will be leading France for the next five years.

Bookmakers are already reporting that their French election betting markets are doing big business as gamblers anticipate the much-publicized election. The first round eliminated all but two candidates and the French electoral system now heads to a run-off which will pit Marine Le Pen against Emmanuel Macron to become the next President.

Where to Bet on the French Election Online

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For the third time in a year, we watch a vote with major implications for the future of an entire nation and beyond. The parallels between the French election, Brexit and the US election are remarkable.

In all three votes, we have seen a populist wave of sorts crash against those looking to maintain the existing order of things. The Brexit vote resulted in the UK choosing to leave the European Union while the upcoming French vote may have similar results. Marine Le Pen has spoken harshly of the European Union with a France-first approach while Emmanuel Macron seeks to keep tight those bonds and maintain France’s role in the European Union.

Betting on the French election is made interesting by one other major parallel between these recent votes. In all three, the global media and most major establishment figures have clearly backed maintaining the current order while the people on the ground remain firmly divided between two very different options.

The Brexit vote and 2016 US election also showed us that there is some serious value to be had in the sense that polling data and media sentiment don’t always get it right. Those considering betting on the French election must ask themselves if a similar outcome is realistic. News stories abound detailing those who collected large payouts after backing the underdogs at attractive odds in the Brexit vote and US election.

Once again, the betting odds favour one candidate over another by a wide margin. The average odds for Macron are about 1/8 while the odds for Le Pen are right in the range of 5/1. In both Brexit betting and US election betting, punters who bucked the odds and backed the “less likely” outcome made out like bandits. Will the same thing happen again for those who bet on the 2017 French election?

Actually predicting the outcome of the French election is starting to get outside our areas of competence, so we’ll be sticking to more factual topics of discussion such as the current French election betting odds, what the polls say and the general take of the international media.

Let’s begin with the basics. Below are the current odds on each candidate.

State of the Race; What Happens Next

France held the first round of presidential voting last weekend with a multitude of candidates representing various parties on the ballot. No one candidate received a majority so France will hold a run-off in a second vote on 7 May with exactly two choices on the ballot: Marine Le Pen and Emmanuel Macron.

Marine Le Pen made it through the first round with 21.3% of the vote while Emmanuel Macron took 24.01%. Their total share from all eligible voters came in at a historically low 26%. This indicates a fractured political sentiment in France and makes it even more interesting to try to predict the outcome of the second round. With so many people not supporting either candidate in the first round, the speculation has turned to which voters Le Pen and Macron can pick up now that the other candidates are out of the picture.

Current polls give Macron a significant lead. The Telegraph has a useful polling tracker that averages the results from polls conducted by OpinionWay, Ifop-Fiducial, Elabe, Harris and BVA Interactive. According to the latest average, Macron leads 62.5% to 37.5% over Le Pen.

Below are results from the Telegraph, Financial Times, Bloomberg and BBC.

Telegraph Poll Tracker

  • Emmanuel Macron: 62.5%
  • Marine Le Pen: 37.5%

Financial Times Poll

  • Emmanuel Macron: 64%
  • Marine Le Pen: 36%

Bloomberg Poll Tracker

  • Emmanuel Macron: 60.5%
  • Marine Le Pen: 39.5%

BBC Poll Tracker

  • Emmanuel Macron: 61%
  • Marine Le Pen: 39%

Betting on Emmanuel Macron

With the polls all leaning heavily in favour of Macron and the media reporting him as the most likely winner of the French election, betting on Emmanuel Macron certainly seems like the safest option. The only catch is his betting odds are fairly short at around 1/8 on average. This means that a £100 bet on Macron would return just £112.50 for a net profit of £12.50.

The returns here are not attractive given the recent upsets we’ve seen. However, one thing we should do is be careful not to apply past results to future outcomes. It is one thing to believe Macron is due for an upset if you believe the same factors that led to previous upsets are in play once again. It is another to simply bet against Macron just because we’ve had a recent slate of upsets. There is a difference there.

That being said, the majority of the money is going on Macron for a reason. He looks to pick up a good chunk of the votes originally cast for other candidates that were eliminated after the first round. Macron is centrist enough to pick up straggler votes from both the left and right, even if some of those voters are not entirely satisfied with the remaining options.

Neither one of these candidates received 50% of the vote, so it comes down to who can pick up the biggest portion of voters who didn’t get their way during the first round. An article published recently by the Telegraph explains why this may benefit Macron more than Le Pen:

“Edouard Lecerf of the Kantar Public polling firm told The Telegraph: ‘Macron’s strength is that even if he isn’t the first choice for the 50 per cent of the first-round voters whose preferred candidates were eliminated in the first round, he is still seen as acceptable by many of them, whereas Marine Le Pen isn’t.’”

The biggest risk in betting on Macron to win the French Election is the chance that pollsters do not understand the mood of actual voters as well as is believed. As we saw in Brexit and the election of Donald Trump, pollsters can sometimes get it totally wrong.

One thing to keep in mind while doing your research is the “Shy Tory Factor.” Marine Le Pen is almost universally portrayed in a negative light in English-speaking media and that can lead to people misleading pollsters as to their voting intentions. On the other hand, Macron still has quite a large lead on his opponent even if you do account for some amount of polling error.

We are not familiar-enough with the French media or political landscape to determine whether or not the Shy Tory Factor could realistically be in play here, but we do have enough experience to know that elections don’t always go as imagined. Just remember that even though bets on Macron may be fairly safe, they are not guaranteed.

Betting on Marine Le Pen

Marine Le Pen is the clear underdog for betting on the French election. She picked up fewer votes than Macron in the first round, recent polls have her trailing him by 20+ points and most of the defeated candidates from traditional parties have endorsed her opponent. On top of all that, Marine Le Pen faces an international media that does not particularly care for her brand of politics.

There are two primary plausible reasons to bet on Marine Le Pen online. First, the odds on her are much more attractive than they are for Macron. Political betting sites are offering 5/1 on average for Le Pen. This means a £100 bet on Le Pen would net £500 in net profit. That’s not too bad for a 2-way race in which the outcome is still fairly uncertain.

Secondly, you might want to bet on Le Pen if you are skeptical of the polling data regarding her chances. If you were around during the Brexit and US election votes, the polling data in both of those was proven wrong come election day. If you believe Marine Le Pen is closer to 50/50, then betting on her at 5/1 is a no-brainer.

Those who are considering betting on Le Pen with Trump in mind should remember one important detail: the French President is chosen by popular vote. Trump won the US election but lost the popular vote. Thus, you cannot directly translate a Trump effect to the French election. If Le Pen is unable to just get more votes than Macron, she’s done. It’s as simple as that.

Le Pen’s best hopes lie with the 55% of voters who voted in the first round but whose candidates were since eliminated. Most polling data shows the majority of those votes switching to Macron, but Le Pen could surprise if she is able to pull enough of those voters over to her side. Similarly, Le Pen’s voters are more astute in their convictions to back her while Macron remains a somewhat unknown figure in politics. If first round voters sit out the second round and Le Pen’s base holds strong, it may be enough to pull off the upset.

Still, it remains a longshot.

No matter who you plan on backing, make sure you’re doing so with eyes wide open. Betting as a form of “wishcasting” your favourite candidate into office is a good way to lose your money. Make sure that your choice is made on the back of cold analysis and not on emotion.

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