Sandrine, a teacher at a middle school in the south of France still hasn’t recovered from the experience. (People mentioned by their first names have wished to remain anonymous.) A few days after the French president announced the dissolution of the Assemblée Nationale, while her colleagues were calmly talking about France’s upcoming snap legislative elections, one of them got angry and said that he was voting for the far-right Rassemblement National (RN) party. “In over 15 years in the profession, I’ve never heard a teacher voting RN so openly,” said the teacher, who is left-wing. “For him, national education is going to the dogs, standards are falling and the solution lies with Marine Le Pen’s party,” she explained, still flabbergasted.

Like Sandrine, many teachers have observed or felt a rise – often low-key – of the RN vote among their ranks, as in the rest of society. According to a study carried out by political scientist Luc Rouban ahead of the European elections on June 9, while half of all teachers are still left-wing voters, almost one in five teachers who vote today would slip a far-right ballot paper into the ballot box. Rouban’s results were similar for France’s 2022 presidential election.

“The teaching world remains one of the last bastions of the left and of resistance to the RN, but this bastion is beginning to crack,” analyzed the researcher. He explained the rise of the far-right in this historically left-wing profession as “a certain defense of public services” that has been put forward by the party’s president, Jordan Bardella, and “the RN taking issues of violence in schools, assaults or problems of secularism into account.” This has become a “strong concern” since the 2020 murder of teacher Samuel Paty.

‘She doesn’t want anyone to know’

A few days before the first round of the legislative elections, Christel, a primary school teacher from the Marseille area, had not yet made up her mind. She would have liked a “real Parti Socialiste, more centrist,” and would not be voting for the left-wing Nouveau Front Populaire (NFP) alliance, where “some people refuse to see Hamas as a terrorist organization.” “It scares me,” she admitted, calling the NFP’s program for education “utopian.” A Macron voter in 2017, she said she was “disgusted by the current government’s contempt for teachers and their daily lives.”

Deeply affected by a parent’s threats a few years ago, she would like to vote for a party that seeks to “protect teachers” and “upgrade their status and pay.” “The RN doesn’t offer any of that,” she acknowledged. “But Jordan Bardella puts forward functional protection, downsizing, restoring authority, and career guidance: That might tempt some.” It could tempt her, too, she admitted, even though she “doesn’t approve of the RN’s immigration policy at all.”

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