(CN) – It’s being called the most important election in modern European history. When voters head to the polls for the first round of the French presidential election on Sunday they won’t only be deciding who will qualify to compete in the election’s second round, on May 7, but also whether the populist wave that propelled the Brexit and swept Donald Trump into the White House will maintain its momentum.
The latest poll conducted by BFM-TV and L’Express magazine showed centerist Emmanuel Macron likely to win Sunday’s contest with 24 percent of the vote, with the far right candidate Marine Le Pen coming in second with 21.5 percent.
However, the poll also shows hard-left candidate Jean-Luc Melenchon and conservative Francois Fillon gaining in voter support, and each within striking range of upsetting one or both of the current frontrunners.
The poll was conducted Wednesday and Thursday, before the deadly attack on the Champs Elysees, for which the Islamic State group has claimed responsibility. And at least one observer, President Trump, has predicted the attack with undoubtedly shape the outcome of Sunday’s vote.
“Another terrorist attack in Paris,” Trump tweeted Thursday afternoon. “The people of France will not take much more of this. Will have a big effect on presidential election!”
In an interview with The Associated Press, Trump says he is not explicitly endorsing Le Pen. But he says he believes she will be helped by the attack that left a Paris police officer dead, because she’s the candidate who is “strongest on borders, and she’s the strongest on what’s been going on in France.”
Trump’s opinion only help confirm the view of both pundits and the international press who have said throughout the race that the candidate who comes closest to the US president’s world view is Le Pen, of the National Front.
Led for years by Marine’s father, Jean-Marie Le Pen, the National Front has a history of anti-Semitism and xenophobia. The younger Le Pen is credited with softening the party’s stark image — going so far as expelling her father from the party for his extreme statements — it continues to be view with skepticism by a majority of French voters.
A poll conducted last year by the Pew Research Center found only 23 percent of French citizens had a favorable opinion of the National Front.
But the same poll, conducted in July, just ahead of the Democratic and Republican presidential nominating conventions, provided insights in where supporters of the National Front stood on immigration, the Muslim community and globalization — all subjects the figured significantly in the remarkable rise of Donald Trump, a political neophyte, in the U.S.
The Pew Center found support for the National Front is somewhat stronger among men, the less educated, and Catholics – though even among these groups, support is limited.
In 2016, support stood at 28 percent among men, 26 percent among those with no college degree and 27 percent among self-identified Roman Catholics.
These findings come close to mirroring the results of U.S. polls that sought to define the typical Trump supporter.
In December 2015, for instance, a Washington Post analysis of several early polls of likely Republican primary voters found Trump’s supports were mostly male, white and poor. More than 50 percent of supporters at the time said they earned less than $50,000 a year.
Economist and statistician Evan Soltas found that when it came to last year’s New Hampshire primary, for every one percentage more college graduates lived in one of the state’s 227 voting precincts, Trump’s support declined 0.65 percent.
And Religion News magazine reported after November’s general election that white evangelical, white Catholic and Mormons voted for Trump by wide margins. The magazine reported that 60 percent of white Catholics preferred Trump to Democrat Hillary Clinton, as did 81 percent of white evangelicals and 61 percent of Mormons.
Pew’s researchers also found that those who favor the National Front express much more negative attitudes toward Muslims.
They are more than twice as likely as others to have a negative opinion about Muslims living in France, and they are also much more inclined to think Muslims want to remain distinct from the larger society, rather than adopting French customs and ways of life.
At the same time, a majority of National Front supporters said they believe that refugees have a negative impact on the France, and opposition to immigrants and refugees has been a mainstay of National Front platforms. People who have a favorable view of the party are much more likely than other groups to believe refugees take away jobs and social benefits, increase the likelihood of terrorism, and are more to blame for crime.
Le Pen has vowed to suspend all immigration to France.
A recent analysis by American National Election Studies found that immigration was a central issue in the 2016 presidential election in the US, and that hostility toward immigrants animated Trump supporters.
According to ANES, Trump got 74 percent of the vote among those who believe the number of immigrants from all foreign countries should be decreased, and 67 percent of Trump voters said they agreed with building a southern border to keep out illegal immigrants from Mexico.
In addition, 71 percent of Trump voters said they hold a negative view of Muslims, and 80 percent opposed allowing Syrian refugees into the United States.
Finally, as far as a head-to-head comparison of supporters is concerned, Pew found that people who support the National Front are more skeptical of globalization.
Le Pen launched her presidential campaign in February with a speech decrying globalization, and as the 2016 survey showed, the belief that involvement in the global economy has been a bad thing for France is more common among those with a favorable opinion of the National Front.
Trump persistently attacked globalization and free trade during his presidential campaign, declaring that both had created a rich elite who donate heavily to career politicians, while “millions of our workers … have been left with nothing but poverty and heartache.”
In a series of speeches in Pennsylvania, Ohio and Michigan — states that proved critical to his election — he vowed to reject the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership with Pacific Rim nations and to re-negotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement with Canada and Mexico.
He’s already done the first and is in the process of doing the second.
A CBS News poll at the mid-point in the presidential campaign found that 76 percent of registered voters believed the US had been a net loser when it came to globalization, and 75 percent believed it had cost American workers jobs.