The fact that the candidate of the far Right-wing Party, Jean-Marie Le Pen, reached the second-round run-off in the election for French President on 21 April 2002 made a big impression on everyone in France. Against a background of social unrest and disillusionment with the main political parties, around 17% of the French electorate voted for the leader of the extreme Right-wing party whose campaign message was largely nationalistic. Were more French people really opposed to the presence of recent immigrants or those of foreign descent at the start of the new millennium? This is far from certain, according to Guillaume Roux.
The author looks at xenophobia in France over the long term and how it has changed, both in general and when the population is broken down by age and by attitudes to different minorities, as well as in comparison with other countries (the United States and others in Europe). He argues that the long-term trend is in fact towards a decline in xenophobia in France. And although certain events, such as the riots in November 2005, may cause sudden blips in the observed trends, factors such as the arrival on the scene of new generations (younger people turn out to be more tolerant than their elders), the general improvement in levels of education or overall changes in people's values suggest that this long-term trend is likely to last.