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Majority of French voters want an EU referendum: Citi

Marine Le Pen, leader of the French far-right Front National (FN) party candidate in France's 2017 presidential election.
Charly Triballeau | AFP | Getty Images
Marine Le Pen, leader of the French far-right Front National (FN) party candidate in France's 2017 presidential election.

More than half of the French electorate want a vote on whether France should be a member of the European Union but many more do not want to leave the euro, research from Citi showed Tuesday.

"Fifty-four percent favor holding a referendum on EU membership. However, 72 percent are opposed to exiting the euro to return to the franc," Citi said in its French 2017 elections: Who will gain momentum in the final stretch? report.

These figures were taken from an Elabe survey, conducted online on March 7 and 8 in France among 1,001 people.

With only a few weeks to go until the first round of the presidential election, it seems clear that the French are dissatisfied with European politics. However, it also seems that they fear the economic impact of leaving the euro zone, which raises questions as to whether the overall EU-sentiment will boost the chances of the far-right leader Marine Le Pen.

The leader of the Front National has pledged to hold a referendum on leaving the European Union and the single currency within six months of becoming president. According to Citi's report, there is only a 20 percent chance that Le Pen will become the next French leader.

"No poll shows Marine Le Pen capable of winning in the second round against either (François) Fillon or (Emmanuel) Macron," the bank said.

"Given the evidence, we believe that the probabilities of each candidate of winning are as follows: Fillon (40 percent), Macron (35 percent), Le Pen (20 percent) and (Benoit) Hamon (5 percent)," Citi added.

The bank's suggestion that the conservative candidate François Fillon is the most likely winner is surprising. Since January, polls have indicated that the centrist runner Emmanuel Macron is the most likely to dispute and win the second round against Le Pen.

A poll released by Le Monde/Cevipof poll on Tuesday showed Macron tied with the far right leader in the first round with 25 percent of the votes. The same poll indicated that he would go on to beat Le Pen in the second round with 61 percent of the votes.

Conservative Fillon likely to become the next president? 

However, the bank noted that whether far-right supporters are certain about their vote, support for Macron may be more fragile than what polls suggest. According to data the bank collected from opinion polls, 83 percent of Le Pen voters are certain about their decision. But only 65 percent of Macron followers are sure about who they will vote for.

At the same time, Fillon's supporters prove to be more loyal than Macron's with 76 percent of them saying they are confident about their decision in the presidential race.

"Furthermore, the political pendulum has shifted to the Right in the last few years," Citi said, adding that "the race for second place in the first round is highly uncertain."

"Our baseline is that François Fillon becomes president. However, the situation remains fluid, with momentum, currently favoring Macron, an important factor to keep an eye on," Citi acknowledged.

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