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Two voting days, a debate and a polling rule in France impacts the Internet


6 min read

This post is also available in Français.

We blogged previously about some trends concerning the first round of the 2022 French presidential election, held on April 10. Here we take a look at the run-off election this Sunday, April 24, that ended up re-electing Emmanuel Macron as President of France.

First, the two main trends: French-language news sites outside France were clearly impacted by the local rule that states that exit polls can only be published after 20:00.

And Internet traffic was similar on both the election days (April 10 and 24) and that includes the increase in use of mobile devices and interest in news websites — there we also saw a clear interest in the Macron-Le Pen debate on April 20.

We have discussed before that election days usually don’t have a major impact on overall Internet traffic. Let’s compare April 10 with 24, the two Sundays when the elections were held. The trends throughout the day are incredibly similar (with a slight increase in traffic on April 24), even with a two-week gap between them.

Another election-day trend is the use of mobile devices to access the Internet, mainly at night. The largest spikes in number of requests made using mobile devices in France during April seemed to be all election-related:

#1. April 10 (first round of the election), 21:00 local time. 58% of traffic by mobile devices.

#2. April 24 (second round of the  election), 22:00. 57% mobile traffic.

#3. April 20 (presidential debate), 22:00. 56% mobile traffic.

Not only did both the election Sundays (after the polling stations were closed) have an impact on mobile traffic in France, but the presidential debate (Wednesday, April 20) had the same type of impact, increasing requests from mobile devices.

The TV debate was seen by 15.6 million viewers in France and lasted between 21:00 and 22:45, local time; at the same time mobile traffic was higher than in any other Wednesday and was the #3 spike of April, with 10% more mobile requests than in the previous Wednesday at the same time.

The special case of French-language news sites

For the elections, local rules state that French media is barred from publishing partial results or polls of any kind until 20:00, the time when voting stations in metropolitan France officially close. So, that means that French news outlets have to wait for the allotted hour to give official projections.

Given that, we looked at French-language news websites from French-speaking countries like Switzerland and Belgium. They aren’t bound by French law and can show information about exit polls earlier (bear in mind that in most French cities polling stations close at 19:00 and only in the bigger cities does it go on until 20:00).

For example, the Swiss Le Temps published exit polls at 19:30.

We can clearly see that requests to French-language news sites outside France clearly spiked earlier than those in France. News websites in France had spikes after 20:00 local time on both elections days, but Belgian and Swiss news sites had major increases in traffic at 19:00 on April 10 (1857% more than the previous Sunday!). For the runoff elections on April 24, the biggest spike of the month was at 18:00 (3100% more requests than the previous Sunday), but it was also higher than on previous days one hour later, at 19:00 (3080% higher).

There are no spikes at all related to the French debate (April 20), so that seems to show that those Belgian and Swiss news sites had a huge increase of French citizens eager to see the polls before 20:00.

Election results change online patterns

We saw two weeks ago that official election websites had a clear spike in requests on April 10, the first round of the elections. Here we’re looking at DNS request trends to get a sense of traffic to Internet properties.

Official French election-related websites had an increase in traffic throughout the week prior to the first round, after Monday, April 4, but it’s no surprise that the two major spikes were on both the elections' day. How much? Here is the breakdown by bigger spikes in traffic:

#1. April 10 (first round of the election), 00:00 local time. 925% more requests than the previous Sunday (at the same time).

#2. April 24  (second round of the election), 20:00. 707% more requests.

#3. April 10 (first round of the election), 20:00. 370% more requests.

#3. April 11, 10:00. 115% more requests than the previous Monday.

(there’s a draw at these last two spikes)

News sites go up after polling stations close

Regarding the main French news websites, as we saw two weeks ago, 20:00 local time, after the polling stations are all closed, and the first major polls are revealed continues to be the time of the biggest spikes of the whole month.

The biggest spike of the month in our aggregate DNS chart, that shows trends from 12 news websites, was definitely on April 10, the first round election day, around 20:00 local time, when those domains had 116% more traffic than at the same time on the previous Sunday. And the second-biggest spike was the runoff election day, on April 24, at the same time (20:00 local time), with an increase of 142% in traffic compared to the previous Sunday at the same time.

Very close to those two spikes is Monday morning, April 11, after the first round of the elections. At 10:00 local time requests were 45% higher than in the previous Monday. The Macron-Le Pen debate on Wednesday, April 20, also had a spike. At 21:00, when it was starting, requests were 56% higher than on the previous Wednesday.

The same trend is seen on the major French TV station websites, with a clear isolated spike on April 10 (the first round election day) at 20:00 local time, with a 472% increase in traffic compared to the previous Sunday, when the main exit polls were announced. Something similar, at the same time (20:00), on April 24, with a 375% increase in requests compared to the previous Sunday.

That’s only matched, again, by the April 20 debate. At 21:00 traffic was 308% higher than the previous Wednesday, so people were clearly taking notice of the debate and checking news outlets and TV station websites — there were French sites like that transmitted via streaming.


When people are really eager to see something as important as election results, they go and search where the first polls are (in this case, before 20:00 local time, they are outside France).

Also, in two different election moments in France separated by two weeks, there are clear similarities in Internet trends that show the way people use the Internet during election periods. That’s more clear when results start to arrive, but also a debate as important for a presidential election as the Le Pen-Macron one, also impacts not only the Internet traffic but also the attention to news and TV websites.

You can keep an eye on these trends using Cloudflare Radar.

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João Tomé|@emot

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