This post is also available in Français.
The first round of the 2022 French presidential election was held this past Sunday, April 10, 2022, and a run-off will be held on April 24 between the top two candidates, Emmanuel Macron and Marine Le Pen. Looking at Internet trends in France for Sunday, it appears that when people were voting Internet traffic went down, and, no surprise, it went back up when results are coming in — that includes major spikes to news and election-related websites.
Cloudflare Radar data shows that Sundays are usually high-traffic days in France. But this Sunday looked a little different.
The seven-day Radar chart shows that there was a decrease in traffic compared to the previous Sunday between 08:00 and 16:00 UTC, that’s 10:00 and 18:00 in local time — bear in mind that polling stations in France were open between 08:00 and 19:00 (or 20:00 in big cities) local time. So, the decrease in traffic was ‘inside’ the period when French citizens were allowed to vote.
That’s a similar trend we have seen in other elections, like the Portuguese one back in January 2022.
The time of the French election day with the largest difference compared to the previous Sunday was 14:00 UTC (16:00 in local time), when traffic decreased as much as 16% (as the previous 7-day chart shows). That’s clear in this chart:
That doesn’t show us precisely how people use the Internet differently on an election day — note that we already saw in the past how the weather, times of the year or even events affect human behaviour and subsequently Internet trends.
Let’s look deeper into those trends. We know that weekdays, weekends and even Sundays have, in many countries, specific patterns so, when we compare the previous four Sundays in France since March 20, we can see some trends highlighted in the next chart:
- April 10, Election Day, was the Sunday with the most traffic of the previous month at 06:30 UTC (08:30 local time) and in several periods between 16:30 and 20:45 UTC (18:30 and 22:45 local time).
- April 10, Election Day, was the Sunday with the least traffic of the previous month in several periods between 09:45 and 11:15 (11:45 and 13:15 local time) and it was the #3 out of #4 with less traffic between 12:15 and 16:15 (14:15 and 18:15 local time).
This seems to show patterns such as: before going to vote more people than usual were online on Sunday, Election Day (08:30 local time), but traffic went down considerably in the late morning period between (11:30-13:15) and again after lunch (14:15 and 18:15) shortly before the polling stations were closed.
The first exit polls started to be published around 18:40 local time (seen in the second and biggest green circle in the previous chart), but the main exit poll was at 20:00 local time, when all the polling stations were already closed, at that time Internet traffic in France was at its highest compared to Sundays during the past 30 days (seen in the third green circle in the previous chart, 18:00 UTC).
How about mobile devices' usage trends? People in France were definitely using their mobile devices more on Election Day, and that is also evident when compared to the previous Sunday, April 3.
On Election Day, April 10, 2022, at around 09:00 local time mobile usage represented 60% of Internet traffic and had another spike at 21:00 local time with 58% (the seven-day average for mobile usage in France is 48%).
When results arrive, people go online
Official websites usually aren’t the most popular sites in a given country, their popularity is mostly connected to when citizens have to fill in their tax forms online or want to see something like election results — although news media outlets are also important there. Here we’re looking at DNS request trends to get a sense of traffic to Internet properties.
Official French election-related websites like elections.interieur.gouv.fr (where the results are published) had an increase in traffic throughout the week mainly after Monday, April 4, but on election day there were two major spikes.
The first spike in traffic was around 20:00 local time (370% more than the previous Sunday at the same time), when all the polling stations were already closed and the first major polls were revealed. But the main spike was later, at midnight (local time), when 84% of the votes were already counted and published — Macron was leading (27%) followed closely by Le Pen (25%). That spike represented 925% more requests than in the previous Sunday.
The news Internet traffic spike ‘knocks’ at 20:00
When there are elections in a country, people tend to see the analysis and results using media outlets from radio to TV, but also the Internet — media websites and social media. Let’s focus on French media outlets. The biggest spike of the week in our aggregate DNS chart, that shows trends from 12 news websites, was definitely on Election Day, around 20:00 local time, when those domains had 116% more traffic than at the same time on the previous Sunday.
Nonetheless, after 16:00 local time, traffic started to increase to those news outlets and by 18:00 local time it had its largest spike of the week with sustained growth until 20:00. At 23:00 local time there was another increase in traffic and after that it started to decrease. But, this Monday morning, traffic at 08:00 was already higher again than during the previous week (Election Day excluded). So, no surprise, Sunday night was when people were looking more into the news.
The same trend is seen on the major French TV station websites, with an even more isolated spike at 20:00 local time and a 472% increase in traffic compared to the previous Sunday, when the main exit polls were announced.
This was also similar to the broadcast radio website trends. Besides the 20:00 local time spike (272% increase compared to the previous Sunday), there was also a big one at 23:00 local time (300%) and a Monday morning spike with higher than before traffic (82% increase):
How about social media?
Regarding social media in France (looking at the aggregate DNS of the several sites), there’s no clear trend regarding the elections, but there were slightly fewer requests than on the previous Sunday. So social media doesn’t appear to have been as impacted by the elections as news websites.
Although there aren’t big changes in Internet traffic, like those seen in countries that shut down the Internet during election periods, Election Day seems to influence human and Internet patterns, in this case when results started to pour in on election night people went to news or official election websites.
You can keep an eye on these trends using Cloudflare Radar.