Opposition as to whether there's a need for a debate on what constitutes national identity here in France is continuing to increase, according to the latest opinion poll released in the national daily, Le Parisien-Aujourd'hui en France.
Half of those questioned weren't satisfied with the way in which the debate was being carried out.
And just as significant perhaps was the response to whether the debate should be stopped.
Again 50 percent said "yes": split between those who wanted it halted completely (29 per cent) and those who wanted it suspended (21 per cent).
For Jean-Daniel Lévy, the director of the CSA Institute that carried out the poll, the findings show that the French are sending out a clear message to their president, Nicolas Sarkozy, as even among supporters of the governing centre-right Union pour un Mouvement Populaire (Union for a Popular Movement) there is some apprehension.
"The survey indicates that a number of UMP supporters prefer not to express their opinion," he says.
"In not wanting openly to find fault with a debate which is being conducted at the wish of the president, his supporters are also avoiding criticising Sarkozy himself," he added.
These latest figures are significantly different from a similar poll carried out just before the debate was launched by the immigration minister, Eric Besson, at the beginning of November, when 60 per cent of French voters said they were in favour of the idea.
The question over whether there's need for a debate has stirred passions from the outset, with political opponents accusing Sarkozy of pandering to the right wing ahead of next year's regional elections.
Indeed even though the French might have given general support to the idea at the beginning, 64 per cent of them also perceived it as electioneering.
Along with the latest opinion poll there has been more opposition from other quarters this weekend.
The French non-governmental organisation, SOS Racisme, launched a petition calling for the debate to be ended saying that the fear of it being "at best stigmatising for the country and at worst racist" had in fact become a reality.
That was a view echoed by Pierre Moscovici, a prominent Socialist party member, during an interview on national radio on Sunday.
He insisted that France had no problem with its national identity and that Besson was simply the messenger carrying out "Sarkozy's dirty work."
The debate, he said had quickly created a link that somehow put into question national identity and being Moslem, and "was damaging to the republic and degrading to France."
In spite of the latest poll and mounting criticism, Besson appears to have lost none of his enthusiasm or determination to keep the debate going, and as he made clear in an in interview the same newspaper which published the survey, Le Parisien-Aujourd'hui en France, he even intends to extend its duration.
"The debate has been the object of a pounding for a month now and it's normal that some people should be sceptical," he said.
"Media attention has been focussed on some xenopobic remarks, but it (the debate) has partly been a victim of its own success," he continued.
"It's a debate that must unite, allowing us to look forward and provide answers to questions that might sometimes raise doubts among the French," he insisted, adding that, "We will debate this until the end of 2010 well beyond the regional elections (in March)."
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