Some 79 percent of French people think M Chirac was a “good president of the republic,” the Odoxa-Dentsu Consulting poll for franceinfo radio found. Over two-thirds of respondents – 67 percent – said they were “saddened” by his death. The late conservative was seen as “friendly” by 90 percent of those polled and “dynamic” by 75 percent. Some 87 percent said he was a leader who “embodied” France. M Chirac was president from 1995 to 2007. His most memorable political achievement was his refusal to back the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003, according to 63 percent of those interviewed.
His opposition infuriated Prime Minister Tony Blair and President George W. Bush, who pressed ahead with the invasion even without a United Nations mandate.
Major of Paris for 18 years and prime minister for both left- and right-wing presidents before taking power himself, M Chirac had a knack for connecting with voters, particularly in rural France.
He famously flirted with Communism and ultra-nationalism before settling on mainstream right-of-centre politics, a position that earned him the nickname “Chameleon Bonaparte”.
President Emmanuel Macron cancelled a public engagement and declared a national day of mourning on Monday, when a mass will be held at the Saint-Sulpice church in Paris.
M Chirac “embodied a certain idea of France,” M Macron said in a televised address on Thursday evening.
“A France that is independent and proud, and was able to stand up against an unjustified military intervention”.
His death prompted heartfelt tributes from across the political spectrum.
“Jacques Chirac knew how to form a personal bond with the French people… France was in his blood, said former socialist leader François Hollande.
Right-wing leader Marine Le Pen said that despite her party’s political differences with M Chirac “he was able to oppose the madness of the war in Iraq”.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson also offered his condolences, saying his loss would reverberate throughout France, “across generations”.
Russian President Vladimir Putin, for his part, said M Chirac was a “wise and far-sighted statesmen” widely admired for his “intellect and huge knowledge”.
But his political career was not without controversy.
He was also nicknamed “Houdini,” a reference to his ability to escape serious punishment despite allegations of misuse of funds.
Five years after leaving office, M Chirac was found guilty in December 2012 of abusing public funds as Paris mayor, making him the first head of state to be convicted since Nazi collaborator Marshal Philippe Petain in 1945.
But he served no jail time and the scandal did little to dent his image.
Mr Chirac, whose extramarital affairs were an open secret, had barely been seen out in public in recent years.
He suffered a stroke in 2005 and underwent kidney surgery in December 2013.
He lived with his wife, Bernadette, in a Left Bank apartment, and worked on his memoirs.
The Odoxa-Dentsu Consulting poll of 996 people aged 18 and over was carried out online on September 26.