French President François Hollande and his love life have been under close international scrutiny since his affair was revealed. Despite the mess of accusations and speculation, Hollande hasn’t lost many fans in France. Given the French indifference to the scandal, the international audience is left wondering if Hollande represents a wider culture of infidelity acceptance.
Hollande’s mistress and longtime partner were both hospitalized immediately following the news. There were whispers of a suicide attempt by his 48-year-old partner Valerie Trierweiler while his mistress Julie Gaynet was said to be dealing with “nervous fatigue”. Hollande brushed it all off publicly and was said to have never visited either during their hospital stays.
When the news died down, Trierweiler took to the presidential retreat in Versailles and thanked her supporters on Twitter. She has now said that she will be joining Hollande on his trip to the White House next month. While reports have varied, it looks as if Trierweiler is ready to forget about the highly public transgressions. For his part, Hollande has remained silent though there are rumors of him taking legal action against the French paper that had first released photos of him with his mistress. Most certainly, there were no public denials or apologies from him.
Anyone who had thought that this might make Hollande an unlikable guy was mistaken. Either the French public are fine with his infidelity or simply don’t feel that it is a reflection on his ability to lead the nation. That said, not many people think Hollande is doing that great of a job anyway. He was at a 22 percent approval rating prior to his affair going public and didn’t drop a percentage after the news.
In relative terms, Hollande isn’t a very popular guy. Other leaders like Angela Merkel hold onto approval rating near 70 percent. Even Barak Obama and David Cameron are slightly more beloved with approval ratings typically hovering around a respective 40 percent and 37 percent.
Those wondering if Hollande’s supporters are blind allies or just infidelity-neutral should take a look back at Clinton’s approval ratings following his wildly publicized affair. He actually gained 5.6 percentage points during the scandal and hovered around 63.8% for that entire messy year in office.
Clinton’s approval rating is particularly baffling given the strong stance taken on marital fidelity in the United States. As it turns out, compared to the rest of the world, the American population is particularly disapproving on such matters. Pew Research Center conducted a recent study asking the world if they considered infidelity to be morally unacceptable. Only 47 percent of French respondents considered it unacceptable. They topped the list as the most forgiving (or at least the most indifferent) followed by the Germans, Spanish, and Italians.
In contrast to the Western European respondents, 84 percent of Americans called infidelity morally unacceptable. The United States topped the list of the most condemning Western nations with primarily Middle Eastern countries rounding out the remainder of the list.
By Nicci Mende