Nearly two out of three people in France oppose the burkini while just over one person in 20 approves of the controversial garment according to a new poll.
Overall, 64 per cent of people in France disapprove of the full body swimsuit while just 6 per cent voiced their support for it according to the poll for Le Figaro.
While 30 per cent of respondents to the Ifop survey said they are “indifferent” to the Islamic swimwear, opposition to the garment crosses party lines. Among different age groups, however, views on the burkini strongly differ — younger cohorts are much more likely to favour the Muslim swimwear.
Opposition to the burkini was highest among supporters of the centre-right Republicans party and the populist Front National.
Seventy-six per cent of respondents backing Nicholas Sarkozy’s party said they disapprove of the garment. The figure was 86 per cent among Front National supporters.
Left wingers in France are more divided in their opinion of the “halal” swimwear, but a majority disapprove.
Of respondents backing the hard left Left Front party, 62 per cent said they were against the burkini.
Socialist Party supporters were less opposed to the garment than people who back the other parties. A majority (52 per cent) expressed disapproval at the burkini while 41 per cent of those backing Francois Hollande’s centre left party said they feel indifferent about it.
The survey found that men are more hostile than women to the Islam-inspired swimwear, with 68 per cent of men disapproving of the garment compared to 60 per cent of women.
Catholics are more strongly opposed to the burkini than other religious groups, with 73 per cent of Catholics declaring against the full body swimsuit, against 57 per cent who said they have no religion.
A poll earlier this month revealed that Catholics in France have become more fearful of Islam since a priest was beheaded by Islamists during morning mass.
The number of people in France who agree that Islam is a threat has remained stable, while Catholic approval of the statement has risen. Thirty-two per cent of French respondents agreed with the assertion in February 2015, compared to 33 per cent in July 2016. For Catholics though, the number agreeing jumped from 33 per cent in 2015 to 45 per cent this year.
The younger people are, the more favourable their opinions towards the Muslim swimwear, the poll found.
Among the 18-24 cohort, 24 per cent voiced their backing of the burkini. Forty-six per cent in this age group said they feel indifferent towards the garment, while 30 per cent disapprove of it.
The oldest cohorts are the most hostile to the Islam-compliant swimwear, the survey revealed.
Commenting on the poll, Ifop director Jérôme Fourquet stated: “We are on a similar level to what we measured overall last April about the veil and headscarf in the street (63% opposed).
“The beach… is equated with street spaces, where wearing ostentatious [religious] symbols is also rejected by two thirds of the French”, the polling boss added.
The full-body swimsuits have been banned from beaches by more than a dozen towns in France. The bans are to protect public order and the country’s secularism, mayors have stated. The move has attracted criticism from Muslim groups, however.
London mayor Sadiq Khan condemned the ban, telling the Evening Standard: “I don’t think it’s right. I’m not saying we’re perfect yet, but one of the joys of London is that we don’t simply tolerate difference, we respect it, we embrace it, and we celebrate it.”