by Jean Rivière & translated by Oliver Waine, le 27/06/2012

Analysing local contexts can prove particularly enlightening when it comes to understanding electoral processes, whether in terms of party-political mobilisation or in terms of the choices voters make. In the inner Paris suburbs, as we shall see, voting patterns are very much structured by the geography of social inequalities.


Following any kind of ballot, electoral maps are sure to proliferate across the media, and the 2012 French presidential election was no exception – especially as computerised electoral results and mapping software are now increasingly accessible. These maps are sometimes produced by enlightened amateurs (notably bloggers) or by academics who are not specialists in political issues. However, many of these maps – which their authors interpret in order to reveal “the principal lessons” (Leroy 2007) to be learnt from the election in question – are in fact of limited scientific interest. Often, they show results on the scale of départements [1] and, at best, distinguish between affluent and poor départements, or between rural and more urban départements, and ultimately highlight regional political cultures without saying anything about the social dynamics upon which these local identities are based.

And yet it is possible to produce maps at municipal level that provide much more detailed and interesting information – the sort of maps that led one demographer, following the 2002 presidential election, to say that he experienced a feeling akin to “discovering the microscope, telescope or scanner” (Le Bras 2002). From this point of view, a new advance has recently been made, as it is now possible to map and analyse results from each individual polling station. [2] Research conducted at this level is rare in France (Girault 2000), even if Paris has, for example, been the subject of some previous studies, conducted at a slightly more detailed level than the city’s 20 arrondissements (city districts), that reveal the electoral manifestation of the historic opposition that structures the capital from the middle- and upper-class west to the working-class east (Goguel 1951; Ranger 1977). The table below gives an initial overview of the electoral profile of the area studied here, compared to France as a whole. It shows the over-representation of votes for the candidates from the largest mainstream parties (Ségolène Royal, François Bayrou and Nicolas Sarkozy).

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