"Women voters shun Segolene Royal" reads one Reuters headline. Writes reporter Kerstin Gehmlich:
The weak female support is a bitter personal blow for Royal, who had played up her feminist credentials throughout the campaign, frequently defending policies she would want "as a mother" and accusing critics of male chauvinism.
Yet Gehmlich noted that the Sarkozy-Royal split among women voters in general was 52-48, according to an Ipsos exit poll. That closely tracks the 53-47 split among voters generally and is not far afield from 54 percent of men who voted for Sarkozy.
Indeed, younger female voters were about evenly split while elderly female voters broke heavily against the Socialist Royal, suggesting that generation, not gender, may have been a stronger determinant in the election outcome.
Royal's support among older voters was particularly poor, with 64 percent of women above the age of 60 supporting Sarkozy, and only 36 percent voting for Royal, according to the Ipsos survey. Women under 35 were split between her and Sarkozy.
Those numbers come from an Ipsos exit poll. Meg Bortin of the New York Times gave more data in her May 7 article that points to age differences in voting for the candidates. (Emphasis mine):
Men preferred Mr. Sarkozy by larger numbers, with 54 percent choosing him over Ms. Royal.
Preferences by age zigzagged from left to right and back again. The 18 to 24 set strongly backed Ms. Royal, giving her 58 percent, according to Ipsos.
But voters in the 25 to 34 years old group nearly equally strongly backed Mr. Sarkozy, a conservative, giving him 57 percent.
The vote was 50-50 in the 35 to 44 age group, while voters of 45 to 59 years — the May ’68 generation whom Sarkozy recently denounced — chose Ms. Royal.
Generational voting patterns and self-interest probably govern here, the latter particularly discernible in the difference in how university-aged French voters, who stand the most to lose (at least initially) by reforms in French labor and welfare laws, backed the Socialist Segolene heavily.
The bottom line: French voters were motivated by ideology, generational values, self-interest, and practical concerns related to governance (Royal had been hurt by concerns of competency in foreign policy, etc.). Indeed, the fact that many young voters heavily favored Royal (who supported a boost in the minimum wage) shows that the future of Socialist politics in the French Republic is far from dead, albeit on the losing side of this battle.