The resilience of Jair M. Bolsonaro



Bolsonarism, democracy and coup

Anyone who follows the Brazilian political news, at this point in time, must have wondered why Bolsonaro's popularity is so resilient, given that the problems that affect his management and behavior would potentially be very harmful to anyone. political. Survey after survey, we witnessed a reasonably timid fluctuation in the approval rating of the president's management, which remained above 30% throughout the time series, despite the Coronavirus crisis and its disastrous administration by the federal government.

The last round of the survey “A cara da Democracia”, carried out between April 20 and 27, detects a significant drop in the approval rating of the Bolsonaro Government: the aggregate proportion of excellent/good evaluations was only 22%. A similar effect was observed by the Datafolha search, released in May. The complete result of the government's assessment in the A Cara da Democracia survey is shown in the chart below:

Graph: Assessment of the Bolsonaro Government
Image: Research The Face of Democracy 2021 (INCT-IDDC)

As we can see, the proportion of those who consider the Bolsonaro government to be optimal is close to 8%. In terms of hypotheses, it is reasonable to assume that this contingent corresponds to what we can call root Bolsonarism, that is, those people who support and agree with the president even after he has taken on quite extreme denialist and anti-democratic postures. The group of those who think the government is good is probably made up of those who recognize some management problems, but still consider their balance positive. It is more difficult to make conjectures about the large group that responds regularly, given the high degree of rejection of representative politics in the population, revealed by countless surveys, it is possible that there are many people who are disgusted with Bolsonaro but do not see an option. desirable for change.

The last two groups are those who strongly reject the government, with a preponderance of the worst, with almost 40% of the survey respondents. Together, the categories “bad” and “terrible” make up practically half of the respondents. Of course, a “glass half empty” reading of the data could be done, as half of the respondents do not strongly reject the government.

By cross-referencing the results of the government assessment question with those of other questions, we were able to obtain more accurate information about the profile of support for the president today in terms of demographics, preferences and values ​​of each group.

In general, when we compare the vote in 2018 with Bolsonaro's current assessment, we note that he lost a lot of support in the highest income groups (5-10 and above 10 minimum wages), and gained support in the lowest income groups (up to 2 and of 2-5 minimum wages). This reorientation of preferences in relation to income is clear, and is also reflected in the education variable: 41% of respondents with a higher education state that they voted for Bolsonaro, but today only 9% think his government is excellent and 12% good.

Regarding gender, women continue to be significantly more hostile to the president than men. This preference shows itself particularly at the extremes of the evaluation. Today, among those who think the government is terrible, 61% are women and 39% are men. At the other end, of those who rate it as excellent, 59% are men and 41% are women.

In addition to these more general trends, also highlighted by other surveys, our Survey it brings batteries of questions on specific topics that allow us to penetrate the preferences and values ​​of the respondents. The first concerns the reasons that would justify a military coup in Brazil today. The questionnaire contains the following reasons: high unemployment, political instability, high corruption, a lot of social protests, a lot of crime and an acute economic crisis. By crossing the answers to these questions with the different degrees of support for the president, we obtain the following result:

Graph: Government Assessment x Justifications for the Military Coup
Image: Research The Face of Democracy 2021 (INCT-IDDC)

To simplify the representation, I chose to plot the differences between support and rejection in each category. For example, the highest point on the graph, which marks 47% on the corruption curve, is the result of the difference between the 72% who support the coup in cases of high corruption and the 25% who do not support it, in the group of those who consider Bolsonaro management great. The lowest point, which marks – 61% on the social protests curve, corresponds to the difference between the 18% who support the coup in case of many social protests and the 79% who reject it, in the group of those who consider Bolsonaro terrible.

First, we do not need to create a general coup index to notice the strong correlation between support for Bolsonaro and acceptance of the possibility of a military coup in Brazil. This tendency is verified in all themes. And it is particularly striking in the transitions between great and good, and bad and terrible. That is, root Bolsonarists are significantly more coup-mongers than more moderate supporters, just as those who strongly reject the captain's government also reject the coup with more intensity than those who reject it more moderately.

Unemployment is the least active of scams. Bolsonaristas even reject this justification. The theme of social protests gained greater support from Bolsonaristas. Even so, the majority, composed of those who marked excellent and good in the government's assessment, do not accept such justification. Then we have economic crisis and political instability. Both gained support from the majority of root Bolsonaristas, but not among the more moderate ones. The difference between Bolsonaristas on the topic of economic crisis is 26 percentage points between the great and good groups.

At the top of the list we have corruption and crime, the justifications that most generated responses in support of military intervention. The crime curve is curious, as the balance is positive in favor of the blow for the excellent, good, regular and bad values. Only the group that thinks the management is terrible rejected such a solution, this one by a reasonably wide margin of 27 percentage points. Overall, 45% of respondents lent legitimacy to the military's intervention under the justification of high crime.

This result reveals the importance of the issue of security, one of the flagships of Bolsonaro's agenda, for a large portion of the population: even among those who consider the government terrible, more than a third would accept a military coup in case of high crime.

Finally, corruption is the champion in the ranking of coup justifications. Its results are identical to those of high crime for those who think the government is bad or terrible, but much higher for the great, good and fair categories. This seems to indicate the centrality of this theme for Bolsonarism. Support for the coup in the root group is 3 to 1 in case of high corruption, and more than 2 to 1 in the group that thinks the government is good. And this support remains strong in the regular group, with an advantage of 19 percentage points for the coup.

Much more could be said for the patterns of responses to this battery of coup-possibility questions. For example, we could examine the other side of the curves, that is, the group that rejects Bolsonaro, but that still reveals surprising adherence to exceptional solutions.

Examining these questions allows us to compare adherence to democracy in a more complex way, avoiding, at the same time, the direct question. It allows us to confirm, albeit provisionally, the hypothesis that corruption is a central theme in Bolsonarism, even more so than security. No other issue, even anti-democratic stances such as rejection of protest and political instability, induced as strong support as corruption. We know that this theme is linked to the rejection of representative politics and its institutions and to anti-PTism. The exploration of these connections is, however, for a next opportunity.

*João Feres Junior is professor of political science at IESP-UERJ. He coordinates the Affirmative Action Multidisciplinary Study Group (GEMAA) and the Media and Public Space Studies Laboratory (LEMEP).

methodological note: The 2021 edition of the national survey “A Cara da Democracia” was carried out by the Institute of Democracy and Democratization of Communication. 2031 Brazilians from all regions of the country were interviewed between April 20th and 27th. The margin of error is 2,2 percentage points considering a 95% confidence interval. The sample represents the Brazilian voting population aged 16 or over distributed proportionally to the existing voting population in each of the five regions of Brazil: North, Midwest, Southeast, Northeast and South. The municipalities were selected probabilistically using the PPT method (probability proportional to size) based on the number of voters in each municipality. The sample also obeyed gender, age, schooling and family income quotas within each census sector. This edition of the survey was carried out in person, following the safety protocols as directed by the competent bodies, such as the use of masks and gel alcohol and safe distancing.



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