Bolsonaro's influence

Image: Valeria Podes


How polarization affects the consumption of political information

The polarization caused by Jair Bolsonaro identified in the survey “The Face of Democracy: Elections 2020” is also visible when it comes to the media. According to the survey, respondents who assess the Bolsonaro government as excellent or good pointed to the following broadcasters as their main means of information about politics on open TV: Record (52%), Bandeirantes (45%), SBT (42% ). Globo appears later, with only 24%.

The numbers do not match the average audience. The Mídia Dados 2019, by the São Paulo Media Group, records that the most watched broadcasters on open TV are: Globo (36%), Record (15%), SBT (15%) and Bandeirantes (3%). Others (Record News, TV Brasil, TV Câmara, TV Justiça, TV Senado, to name a few) add up to 29%, a figure that expresses audience dispersion, even though the largest groups control most of it.

The change seems to show that Bolsonaro's campaigns against Grupo Globo, which included the threat to revoke the concession after a report by Jornal Nacional mentions Bolsonaro's name among those cited in the investigation into the murder of councilor Marielle Franco and driver Anderson Gomes, and his rapprochement with Record and SBT, TV channels that have benefited since the 2018 election period and which have been awarded more advertising funds, have had an effect. The situation is ironic, since Globo played a decisive role in building the feeling anti-politics and in the coup that led to the removal of President Dilma Rousseff in 2016, as I have demonstrated on other occasions.

Analyzing the research by the INCT (Institute for Democracy and Democratization of Communication), we see that the audience's options are migrating according to the government's assessment. Among those who consider it regular, Globo is close to the leadership it actually has, with 33%. Even so, the three other groups with the greatest projection register expressive levels: SBT (32%), Bandeirantes (31%) and Record (29%). Other broadcasters were also highlighted by the electorate, which confirms the dispersion to other channels.

Among those who consider the Bolsonaro government bad or terrible, the main source of information about politics on open TV is Globo (43%), followed with a greater interval by the others: SBT (26%), Bandeirantes (23%) and Record (20%).

The poll's confidence level is 95% and the margin of error is 2,2 points for national data. In the regional results, the margin of error varies. In all, two thousand people were consulted between October 24th and November 3rd.

The data are important because, as the survey also shows, open TV news continues to be identified as the main means of information about politics (36%). In second place is the Google search engine (10%), followed by internet blogs (10%) and Facebook (8%). WhatsApp, which has been the focus of misinformation concerns since 2018, comes in at 2%, trailing even Instagram at 3%. This should not lead us to underestimate the role of social networks, but to note the permanence of the importance of TV, which even ends up guiding the conversation on other platforms. To give an example, around 80% of what is written on Twitter derives from television content.

As has been pointed out in this Observatory, it is unlikely that this dynamic of polarization, with broad support for Bolsonaro, will, despite everything, be reflected with the same force in the votes. Municipal elections have more particular dynamics and, in their case, the pandemic situation and the assessment of the performance of governors and mayors in the fight against covid-19 also weigh. Nevertheless, the data are interesting for us to note that the influence of Bolsonaro, the greatest expression of the extreme right in Brazil, is not superficial. It has effectively modified culture, including the consumption of the media, central institutions for the formation of identities, values, tastes and for the democratic debate itself.

*Helena Martins, professor at the Federal University of Ceará (UFC), is a journalist and member of the Speakers.

Originally published on 2020 Election Observatory of the Institute of Democracy and Democratization of Communication (INCT/IDDC).


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