Monitoring attention data to predict the French Election

Attention density favoured Le Pen up until the first round of voting in the French Election. Now Macron has momentum with the media and, therefore, a good chance of winning.

Source: Kaleida Data, 2017

Up until the weekend our data suggested that Le Pen’s lead in the French Election was insurmountable.

The pattern looked similar to what we’ve seen elsewhere this year — as if Le Pen had acquired a critical mass of attention density, a position where a sort of natural gravitational force pulls all media in around something.

Attention from mainstream media alone is not enough to create this force. Lots of things get heavy coverage and no response. And neither is viral distribution of things people say on Facebook. A viral story may have no value to it other than its own reflection.

Rather it’s the intersection of those two things that creates a sense of density and weight and real world impact.

Le Pen had that kind of gravity, even after a tumultuous February that included a ‘fake jobs’ scandal, a fraud probe, and a police raid. *

Since the beginning of 2017 the leading news orgs have been covering Marine Le Pen a lot more than all the other candidates. 40% have been about her, 30% about François Fillon and 21% about Emmanuel Macron with the rest spread out amongst the others.

With so much media attention focused on Le Pen she is obviously going to dominate how coverage about the candidates is shared on Facebook. In fact, prior to Round One articles about Le Pen earned 70% of all shares of coverage about the candidates with 26% split between Fillon and Macron.

In mid-April that attention market became destabilised. It was Jean-Luc Mélenchon who really changed things. It seemed to come from a big rally in Lille on the 12th.

Stories began resonating in the market about his increasing fame, his plans for taxing the rich, pumping €100 billion into France’s green economy, and his euroscepticism. Suddenly, shares of coverage about Mélenchon actually eclipsed Le Pen for the first time since we began tracking coverage of the candidates.

The whole thing seemed up for grabs.

Now that we’re down to two candidates things really have changed. And Macron is actually leading Le Pen in terms of attention. We’re tracking nearly 200 articles about Macron over the last 24 hours which have earned over 150k shares on Facebook. Le Pen no longer has the same attention density with just 150 articles in the same period and about 140k shares on Facebook.

Both candidates are probably outperforming expectations given neither represents the mainstream political parties, and it’s plausible that Macron is outperforming more than Le Pen given the many years she has already spent in the media spotlight.

Based purely on attention density as we’ve described here, Kaleida data now suggests that Macron is leading the race. A lot of news and sharing of that coverage will happen between now and election day. If the past is an indicator of what happens next then the daily shifts in attention will surely affect voting.

The side that can build the most coverage by mainstream media that is shared the most on Facebook is likely to come out on top.

* The significant caveat in what the data tells us here is that Kaleida is looking at English-language articles from major news orgs in the US and UK only. Without tracking coverage of the French media market interpretations of data about French issues have to be taken with many grains of salt.