The first opinion poll since a gunman shot dead four people at a Jewish school showed President Nicolas Sarkozy would narrowly beat his Socialist challenger in the first round
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 percent in the first round and Hollande 28 percent, 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.
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.
Some 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. For more election stories, click on [IDn:FRELEX]
(Reporting by Leigh Thomas; Editing by Geert De Clercq and Tim Pearce)
Sarkozy takes first-round poll lead after shootings