In France, François Fillon’s stunning upset surprised everyone but Hypermind

While the latest polls in France’s primary of “the right and center” indicated a tight 3-way race, the prediction market correctly extrapolated a stunning upset and the order in which the contenders finished.

The primary “of the Right and Center” in France is a two-rounds election designed to select the candidate of the right’s “Les Republicains” party for the 2017 presidential election. Seven candidates were competing in the first round held on November 20, only two of which will compete in the second round held a week later.

For months, the favorite of the polls had been Alain Juppé, an ex-prime minister of Jacques Chirac and ex-foreign minister of Nicolas Sarkozy, who was polling just behind him. As all other contenders were far behind in the polls, the two were widely expected to face-off in the second round.

But on election day, Sarkozy’s ex-prime minister, François Fillon, pulled a stunning upset by coming in first (44.1%), far ahead of Juppé (28.5%), and leaving third-place Sarkozy in the dust (20.6%).

The last couple weeks of polling had seen Fillon catching up to the two leaders, and the final polls, two days before the vote, had the three of them tied around 30%. Poll-based expectations were thus for a very tight race, a far cry from Fillon’s overwhelming victory, or Sarkozy’s humiliating defeat.


The story told by Hypermind was quite different. Focusing not on vote-share in the 1st round, but on who will win the two-rounds election – which Fillon ended up winning in a landslide – the market also had Juppé as the overwhelming favorite up until the final polls showing the three contenders tied. But all this while it also had Fillon tied with Sarkozy in terms of probability of winning. When Fillon started rising in the polls, in the last week of the campaign, Fillon’s chances of winning the nomination also rose, while Sarkozy, still second to Juppé and ahead of Fillon in the polling, became third in the prediction market. When the last polls showed the three contenders tied, the market, in contrast, showed Fillon tied in the lead with Juppé, with Sarkozy far behind. From then on, over the last couple days before the vote, Fillon became the clear market leader while Juppé’s chances to win collapsed (but remained above Sarkozy’s).

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