Response to attacks puts Sarkozy in lead
Paris - The first opinion poll since a gunman shot dead four people at a Jewish school on Monday showed President Nicolas Sarkozy would narrowly beat his Socialist challenger in the first round of a presidential election next month.
Sarkozy and Francois Hollande suspended their campaigns after three children and a rabbi were shot dead at the school in Toulouse in southwest France, killings that followed the shooting of three soldiers earlier this month.
A CSA poll conducted on Monday and Tuesday showed Sarkozy would win 30% in the first round and Hollande 28%, whereas the two rivals had been neck-and-neck a week ago.
Despite Sarkozy's lead in the first round, the poll showed that Hollande was still ahead by eight percentage points in a second-round run-off on May 6, unchanged from a week ago.
While Hollande has so far enjoyed a large lead over Sarkozy whose economic record and showy style left many voters dissatisfied, his response to Monday's shootings has improved his image.
On the sidelines
The shootings by a 24-year-old Muslim in the name of al-Qaeda have thrust Sarkozy into his preferred role of protector-in-chief and put a new focus on security, traditionally a strong point for the president.
Sarkozy has repeatedly appeared on national television giving information on the manhunt and presiding over a ceremony for the fallen soldiers, while Hollande has had little choice but to remain on the sidelines.
The CSA poll was the first to show Sarkozy taking a two-point first-round lead over Hollande.
Several other polls in recent weeks have shown Sarkozy trimming Hollande's lead, indicating that the president's efforts to step up his campaign were bearing fruit.
About 1 000 people of voting age were questioned for the CSA poll, which was conducted for BFM TV, RMC radio and 20 minutes free newspaper.