France's Front National (FN) has gone from a protest vote to a genuine election contender over the last twenty years. According to research by Ifop comparing surveys of FN voters in 1997 and 2017, the share of people putting their cross next to the Le Pen-led party as an act of defiance to the political status quo has significantly reduced; from 84% twenty years ago to 60% in the lead up to this year's crucial presidential election.
Even among its supporters, the party was largely seen as 'racist' in 1997. The prevalence of this opinion has fallen since Marine Le Pen took over from her father, Jean-Marie, though. Over the last two decades there has been a 25 percentage point drop here, suggesting that Marine's attempts to clean up the party's image is working, pulling in voters from a much wider spectrum of French society. The extent to which she has been successful in this will be revealed on Sunday when the polling booths open for the first round of voting.
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