( dpa ) - French President Nicolas Sarkozy likes being liked, and he is impressed by people who are able to sell themselves successfully.
Talking about a popular French comedian, Sarkozy told the weekly L'Express, "It interests me when someone is able to fill the (80,000- seat) Stade de France."
And writer Yasmina Reza reported in her best-seller about Sarkozy's presidential campaign that the soon-to-be president said about a best-selling writer, "A guy who sells 20 million copies interests me."
So it must also interest Sarkozy, in a different way, that recent polls have shown a steep plunge in his popularity with the French.
This week, three separate surveys have shown the French president's approval ratings dropping below 50 per cent. One poll, conducted by the BVA institute, revealed that for the first time since he took office in May 2007 more people dislike Sarkozy than like him.
That a newly elected French president loses favour with his constituents after the initial "honeymoon" period has ended is nothing new or unexpected. But the reasons for Sarkozy's loss of popularity are as unconventional as he is.
According to the head of BVA Opinion, Jerome Sainte-Marie, Sarkozy's loss of favour with the French was a three-stage affair, beginning with a 140 per cent increase in his salary he effectively gave himself.
"But in the second phase, over the Christmas holidays, the French people saw their president spend this money in an extraordinary manner, all in a rather frivolous setting," Sainte-Marie said.
All the polls point to a sudden and precipitous loss of confidence in the ability of Sarkozy to govern, with drops in popularity of 6 to 8 per cent over the past month, when French media repeatedly showed him on holiday with his glamourous girlfriend, former supermodel Carla Bruni.
The last blow to the French president's image came during his January 8 press conference, Sainte-Marie said, when he pugnaciously declared that he could do nothing to improve household finances and made it seem as if the demands made on him were unreasonable.
Asked what he would do to improve the dwindling purchasing power of the French, Sarkozy had replied, "What do you want from me? That I empty state treasuries that are already empty? That I give orders to companies that I have no business giving orders to?"
That was in great contrast to the promises of his campaign, when Sarkozy had vowed that he would become "the president of increased purchasing power."
The weekly Le Point said that Sarkozy's loss of popularity was greatest among blue-collar workers, who are having trouble making ends meet, and older people, the most conservative segment of French society but also with limited financial means.
"The dissatisfaction (of the French people) was compounded by his inadequate answer at the press conference. There is a real alarm," said Frederic Dabi, director of the public opinion department of the IFOP institute.
There is, in fact, a growing feeling in France that what is perceived as Sarkozy's exhibitionism in regard to his private life is, as one opposition politician put it, "smoke and mirrors" intended to hide his lack of success in dealing with fundamental issues.
The first French president to come from immigrant stock, the first to divorce while in office, he has also been the first head of state to parade his glitzy lifestyle on the glossy covers of France's "glamour" magazines.
The daily L'Est Republicain recently reported that Sarkozy and Bruni were secretly married at the Elysee Palace earlier this month, but the report has not been confirmed. If it eventually is, he would also be the first president to marry while in office.
But that might well be the solution he will ultimately resort to: Settling down with his new wife and showing the French that he can be as conventional and dependable as his predecessors.