French poll shows huge support for Chirac following visit to Jerusalem


AN opinion poll conducted by the French Public Opinion Institute (IFOP) and published by Liberatio yesterday shows that 83 per cent of French people approved of President Jacques Chirac's showdown with Israeli security forces in Jerusalem last week.

Although 45 per cent of those questioned judged Mr Chirac's Middle East tour to be "something of a failure", 54 per cent thought it had advanced the cause of peace in the region and 41 per cent said Mr Chirac's journey changed their opinion of him for the better.

A surprising 80 per cent said they would prefer that Mr Chirac acted within the framework of a shared European policy on the Middle East, rather than take initiatives on his own.

Although Mr Chirac is a strong advocate of a common European foreign policy, opponents say he wants a united policy on condition it be dictated by France.

Yesterday's poll results provide a badly needed boost for Mr Chirac. An earlier poll conducted by IFOP and published in Le Point magazine during Mr Chirac's trip showed that he and the Prime Minister. Mr Alain Juppe had fallen to the lowest public approval level of any French administration since 1958. A year and a half after his election, Mr Chirac received a 64 per cent disapproval rating.

The unpopular Mr Juppe fared even worse, with 70 per cent of French people expressing a negative opinion of his performance. Mr Juppe's approval rating has fallen 42 points to 26 per cent over the past 18 months. Mr Juppe has borne the brunt of public anger at the government's austerity programme. Mr Chirac has so far resisted pressure to dismiss Mr Juppe.