Have the French changed their habits in the face of the coronavirus?


France is not China. Not so much because of its geographical size or economic power, but because of its culture and the way of life and behaviour of the French. The coronavirus is reshuffling the maps of the hierarchy of needs, without revolutionizing everyday habits. This is what an Ifop* survey published on Monday 9 March on the impact of the coronavirus on the mobility, hygiene and purchasing behaviour of the French reveals. Some basic hygiene rites and shortcomings are hard on the skin!

According to this study, the coronavirus would have a definite impact on the frequentation of certain public places, on behaviour and relationships with others, but also on purchasing behaviour, without following precautionary recommendations, particularly in terms of hygiene. 

A disaffection of certain public places such as bars or restaurants.

The coronavirus, because of the climate of anxiety it causes, has an impact on the frequentation of public places considered in the collective imagination as places of promiscuity and/or physical contact likely to promote the spread of the virus.
One French person in four (25%) avoids going to public places for leisure or shopping purposes. In total, one French person in four (25%) has already avoided going to public places for leisure or shopping (e.g. shops, restaurants, bars, sports...) because of the coronavirus and about the same number (24%) are planning to avoid them in the near future: the places most affected are bars (21%), group activities (e.g. team sports) or Asian restaurants (14%).

Confirming the results of a previous Ifop survey, which showed a high level of concern about going to bars (49%) or restaurants (32%), this study shows a more limited impact on business travel (9% among the employed) and medical-related travel among healthcare professionals (9%) or to a pharmacy (4%).

28 % of French people would not vote in municipal elections

Despite the epidemic, the municipal elections on 15 and 22 March will not be postponed. But Covid-19 could well have consequences, as nearly three out of ten voters (28%) are likely not to go to a polling station to vote in the next municipal elections because of the risks of coronavirus transmission.

The number of voters who say they are "certain" that they will not vote because of the virus is certainly smaller (16% versus 12% of voters "likely" not to vote), but it nevertheless represents between 6 and 8 million voters if we extrapolate this rate on the basis of the 44.3 million registered voters in metropolitan France (Source: INSEE, Répertoire électoral unique, data as of February 14, 2020).

Why not enjoy unlimited reading of UP'? Subscribe from €1.90 per week.

At a time when the postponement of the vote was rejected by the government, the health crisis linked to Covid-19 could therefore play a downward effect on electoral mobilization even though abstention had already reached in 2014 the record level of municipal elections under the Fifth Republic (36.43% in the first round and 38.3% in the second round).

Voters most likely not to go to the polls are over-represented among residents of the Paris region (25%)A detailed analysis of the results shows that this demobilization would not affect all categories of the electorate in a similar way. The voters most likely not to go to the polls are over-represented among residents of the Paris region (25%), executives and senior intellectual professions (28%), as well as young people under 35 years of age (23%) and students (29%). Conversely, senior citizens, who are the most exposed to the risk of transmission, are less numerous (11%) than the average (16%) to be "certain" not to vote because of the virus.

Finally, politically, right-wing voters are the least likely to abstain on this ground (23% to 25% of voters for the LR and DLF candidates in the 2017 presidential election), unlike voters at the two extremes of the political spectrum, who are much more likely than average (28%) to state that they do not intend to vote because of the virus (31% of lepenist voters, 30% of melenchonist voters).

Survival-type purchasing behavior

The French are stockpiling!The multiplication of the cases of coronavirus these last times makes thus blow a wind of panic within the hexagon, which appears by unusual behaviors of purchases on behalf of the French: 26% already carried out purchases of precautions like pastes, masks, hydroalcoholic gel... because of the coronavirus and they are as many (25%) to consider getting supplies soon.

And in the detail of the results, more precisely 18% of them have bought more soap or hydroalcoholic gel than usual, 11% food products (rice, pasta...), 8% protective masks and 7% drugs. In this respect, precautionary purchases are particularly made by young people under 25 years of age (45%), residents of the Paris region (30%) and people with relatives who have already been subject to a containment or quarantine measure (49%).

Great inertia in the adoption of good preventive hygiene practices.

Despite the hammering of health prevention messages for several weeks, it is clear that the bad habits of the French in terms of personal hygiene remain very similar to those that Ifop had observed at the end of January before the crisis broke out.

Wash your hands! The French are far from it.The French apply hardly more than before the good gestures of prevention: they are only 72% to systematically wash their hands after going to the WC (+ 1 point compared to January 31), 54% before eating (+ 5 points) and 47% after taking transport (+ 2 points). And the historical perspective of these data with those of the last thirty years confirms the idea that it is very difficult to eliminate bad habits in this area overnight.

Similarly, only a quarter of French people say they systematically wash their hands after blowing their noses (25%) and 42% say they think of covering themselves with an arm or a handkerchief when coughing or sneezing or spitting into a single handkerchief, a sign of the still limited impact of the prevention messages that have been disseminated for weeks on the subject.

91 % of the French are still kissing each otherOther rites such as kissing or handshaking... are also still firmly rooted in French behaviour. The recommendations of the health authorities regarding physical contact are also far from being strictly respected by the French: barely a quarter of them (25%) say they do not shake hands with strangers to introduce themselves and only 9% do not kiss their loved ones.

In terms of civility, the proportion of French people exposing themselves to the risk of contamination by, for example, continuing to shake hands to introduce themselves/welcome is very high: 75% do so to strangers (including 11% systematically) and 85% to relatives (including 26% systematically).

To fight against disinformation and to favour analyses that decipher the news, join the circle of UP' subscribers.

Likewise, kissing friends and family remains a greeting ritual deeply rooted in French people's habits - 91% always do it, 31% do it systematically - especially among young people under the age of 25 (63% do it, compared with 23% of senior citizens) and residents of the South-West (53%, compared with 34% of residents of the Ile-de-France region).

Faced with the inevitable evolution of the Covid-19 epidemic, will the French be able to question themselves? For it is essential to adopt the individual and collective gestures and behavior likely to slow down the spread of the virus (barrier behavior), effective measures that have been practiced since antiquity and were practiced on a large scale against the successive waves of the Black Death in the middle of the 14th century.
As William Dab, an epistemologist, former Director General of Health and professor at the CNAM, explained in an intervention on TV this Tuesday 10 February, " you have to adapt an individual discipline. Distance and hygiene measures must be respected in order to succeed in spreading the epidemic over time.« . This is the solution. You have to find the right dosage, the right recipe to invent every day. This kind of epidemic tests our societies and our behavior to be altruistic: "It's altruism that's being tested in our country"





*Ifop study for Charles.co conducted by self-administered online questionnaire on March 5, 2020 with a sample of 1,008 people, representative of the French population aged 18 and over residing in metropolitan France.

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Previous article

When the coronavirus reshuffles the maps of our priorities...

Next article

Pandemic, death of death and philosophy of the Enlightenment

Latest articles from Analyses

Le dilemme de Gaïa

Gaïa s’inquiète. Gaïa nous guette. Notre mère nature observe son dernier rejeton,



Already registered? I'm connecting

Inscrivez-vous et lisez three articles for free. Recevez aussi notre newsletter pour être informé des dernières infos publiées.

→ Register for free to continue reading.



You have received 3 free articles to discover UP'.

Enjoy unlimited access to our content!

From $1.99 per week only.