20 Aug

Bolsonaro and Lula are in a fierce battle for profiles on Twitter

Updated 5 de September, 2022 at 11:47 am

  • André Janones’ entry into Lula’s support group increased the former candidate’s interactions and placed his as one of the main influencers in the group;
  • Bolsonaro’s interview at the Flow Podcast increased interactions in the former president’s support group;
  • Although they are still in the same group, Ciro Gomes and Simone Tebet grew more distant and began forming their own support groups on Twitter.

With the definition of the candidacies for the Presidency of the Republic, the debate between political groups started showing more stable outlines, with a highlight to the intensification of the battle for dominance in number of profiles between the support groups of Jair Bolsonaro and Lula, Those were the findings of a report by the Department of Public Policy Analysis at Fundação Getulio Vargas (FGV DAPP), which identified more than 1.6 million interactions in the profiles of presidential candidates Jair Bolsonaro (PL), Lula (PT), Ciro Gomes (PDT) and Simone Tebet (MDB) on Twitter between August 3 and 13.

The declaration of support by André Janones to Lula was one of the highlights in the period, placing the Avante candidate among the major profiles in the group supporting the PT. However, it is important to highlight that Janones did not have a high level of engagement on Twitter and was more influential on Facebook. Therefore, the approximation between the two politicians on Twitter seems to have increased the reach of the former candidate, who introduced a new language into Lula’s support group.

The group aligned with Bolsonaro had a high volume of interactions, driven mostly by the mobilization around the president’s participation in the Flow Podcast. The highlight in the third-way group was the beginning of its potential ramification into support groups for Ciro Gomes and Simone Tebet, although the two candidates still share this common base of supporters at the moment.


Presidential candidates

Map of interactions in mentions to presidential candidates in the debate about the elections on Twitter
Period: August 3 to 13

Source: Twitter | Elaborated by: FGV DAPP

Right wing – 45.93% of profiles | 52.72% of interactions
Group former by influencers, politicians and journalists and led by President @jairbolsonaro. The president promoted actions of his administration and criticized the former president Lula and the PT. The highlights were posts made by the president criticizing the PT for praying and using the Brazilian flag in its political events, and denying the claims that he had lunch with Guilherme de Pádua. The president’s supporters praised his administration and performance as president, sharing electoral pools in which he has an advantage and his popular support. The group also highlighted Bolsonaro’s participation in the Flow Podcast and criticized the news program Jornal Nacional for not allowing Bolsonaro to be interviewed at the Palácio da Alvorada.

Left wing – 42.06% of profiles | 32.54% of interactions
Group formed by politicians, influencers and journalists, with a major highlight for @LulaOficial and @AndreJanonesAdv. The group talked about the former president’s commitment to maintain the social aid program Auxílio Brazil if he is elected and said Bolsonaro’s expansion of the program is a response to Lula’s advantage in the electoral pools, “thanking” him for the benefits. Other highlights were posts celebrating the former president’s victory in advance and praising his previous administrations. The group also celebrated Lula’s audio recording circulated by the singer Anitta in a podcast. The congressman André Janones, who recently allied with the former president, was a major highlight in topics related to social aid and guidance for virtual mobilization.

Third way ‒ 8.38% of profiles | 13.94% of interactions
Group composed by journalists, influencers and communication outlets that are not aligned with the two major groups, with a highlight for the presidential candidate @cirogomes and his vice @AnaPaulaMatosBA. Ciro Gomes and profiles supporting him criticized the presidential candidates Lula and Bolsonaro. The cancelation of a debate due to the absence of the two candidates leading the polls was one of the main topics in the group, together with Ciro’s proposals and his participation in interviews. The presidential candidate @simonetebetbr was also a part of the group and criticized Lula’s a Bolsonaro’s absence in the debates.


Major tweets inside the groups in the map of interactions
Period: August 3 to 13

Source: Twitter | Elaborated by: FGV DAPP


Alexandre de Moraes takes office as president of the Superior Electoral Court

Evolution of mentions to Alexandre de Moraes taking office as president of the Superior Electoral Court on Twitter
Period: August 3 to 17

Source: Twitter | Elaborated by: FGV DAPP


  • The presence of presidential candidates in the inauguration ceremony of the minister Alexandre de Moraes as president of the Superior Electoral Court drove the debate about the court and the electoral race. The reactions and perceptions of President Bolsonaro and the former presidents Lula, Dilma and Temer were mentioned by the users, who shared videos of the candidates greeting other guests and interacting with the Supreme Court ministers.
  • The speech given by the minister Alexandre de Moraes about electoral security, as well as Bolsonaro’s refusal to applaud him, were also mentioned in the debate about the Supreme Electoral Court and the Supreme Court, with most users saying that Bolsonaro was cornered and “humiliated”. The president’s supporters participated in a smaller volume and stated that his refusal to applaud Moraes showed his commitment to his principles, and shared a video showing Moraes laughing together with the president at the ceremony.
    There was also a debate about interventionism in association with the electoral system. The requests for data by the Armed Forces to the Supreme Electoral Court and the definitions of how the military institutions will monitor the electoral process mobilized users, particularly regarding the dismissal of a colonel who posted fake news about the elections from the commission that will monitor the election, as well as posts asking the Armed Forces to intervene if minister Moraes takes measures that might harm Bolsonaro’s re-election.
  • The debate about disinformation grew with the beginning of the electoral campaign and fake news reports. The users, especially critics of President Bolsonaro, highlighted the portion of Alexandre de Moraes’ speech about the topic. The president’s supporters accused Moraes of lying when stating that the electoral system is secure. In addition to the Supreme Electoral Court inauguration ceremony, posts made by minister Damares against the former president Lula and mentions of a potential meeting between Bolsonaro and Guilherme de Pádua were also discussed.

Trends and debates on Telegram


Telegram has been used as a mobilization tool mostly by Bolsonaro’s support group. That is a finding of a report by the Department of Public Policy Analysis at Fundação Getulio Vargas (FGV DAPP), which collected more than 168.1 thousand messages in 192 public groups in the instant messaging application Telegram between August 1 and 16.


Most shared links o Telegram
Period: August 1 to 16

Source: Telegram | Elaborated by: FGV DAPP


  • YouTube videos were a highlight among the most shared links in the period, accounting for eight out of the top ten major links;
  • Seven of the top ten major links were aimed at mobilizing users in the platform to engage digitally, seeking to show the strength and volume of the support for Bolsonaro. This movement was in line in the narrative that sought to delegitimize electoral polls based on metrics related to digital media;
  • The data also indicated the opposite of what was found in the analysis of other mobile applications, such as WhatsApp, in which there was a predominance of negative content about other candidates and adversaries;
  • The mobilization around interviews granted by President Jair Bolsonaro and by the former minister Eduardo Pazuello in podcasts was also related to the fight for the public in the face of the numbers obtained in participations of the former president Lula;
  • Another element of mobilization was the engagement around virtual polls – with no adequate statistic methodology – to measure voting intention.


Most shared links about the Supreme Electoral Court on Telegram
Period: August 1 to 16

Source: Telegram | Elaborated by: FGV DAPP


In the debate about the Supreme Electoral Court specifically, YouTube was also the major source of information on Telegram, accounting for 13 of the top 15 posts.
Unlike what was seen in the debate around links in general, the mentions to the Supreme Electoral Court had a more negative tone, with titles related to an alleged intervention on the court by the Armed Forces and conspiratory threats about alleged crimes committed by the court and its ministers.

Association of topics with presidential candidates


Economy and security remained the topics with the highest level of association with the major candidates. Fuel prices and the maintenance of the social aid program Auxílio Brasil prompted a discussion on whether those are electoral maneuvers, indicating a narrative dispute around the implementation of social policies in the administrations of former president Lula and the current president. Ciro Gomes’ supporters commented on the economy agenda, claiming that Lula and Bolsonaro are committed to the same economic project and distinguishing Ciro’s proposal regarding economic inequality. Simone Tebet was a highlight in the security topic with criticism of the agenda promoted by the government to facilitate gun access.


Topics associated with Jair Bolsonaro on Twitter
Period: August 3 to 17

Source: Twitter | Elaborated by: FGV DAPP


  • Fuel prices and the maintenance of the Auxílio Brasil were the two major topics in the economy agenda associated with President Jair Bolsonaro. The discussion on whether Bolsonaro will maintain the social aid program and comparisons with the Bolsa Família mobilized supporters and critics, who discussed whether those are electoral maneuvers. Regarding fuels, Bolsonaro’s supporters celebrated the price cuts, while critics claimed that Bolsonaro had the power to cut prices before and only acted now because Lula is ahead in the polls;
  • Regarding security, critics associated President Bolsonaro with militia groups, called him “genocidal” and criticized his defense of gun carry. Investigations involving a pro-Bolsonaro congressman and the president’s supposed lunch meeting with Guilherme de Pádua were also highlights in the debate. Bolsonaro’s supporters said he is the only one able to defend the country from “criminals and drug dealers” and mentioned that he has the support of the Armed Forces;
  • The dispute about the president’s role in the bill that created a national salary floor for nurses also mobilized groups favorable and opposed to the president in the debate about health. The administration of the pandemic by the federal government also generated criticism associated with the president during the period.

Topics associated with Lula on Twitter
Period: August 3 to 17

Source: Twitter | Elaborated by: FGV DAPP


  • The issues involving the continuity of the Auxílio Brasil were at the center of the debate about the economy, with two major narratives circulating. The first narrative was mobilized by a more conservative sector and defended the policies developed by the Bolsonaro administration, claiming that Lula is spreading fallacies about the current president and that the social aid program will continue in 2023. On the other hand, Lula’s supporters did the opposite, claiming that Bolsonaro’s social policies fulfill a purely electoral objective. The circulation of both narratives indicates that the environment of polarization is also reflected in the debate about these topics;
  • There was a certain level of thematic fragmentation in the discussions about security. However, some interesting narratives emerged in the debate, such as the declaration of support for Lula by Christian users who believe that the Bolsonaro administration has harmful and violent policies. Nevertheless, there was also a lot of criticism against the former president. For instance, Lula was called “the true genocidal”, with accusations that he was an enemy of democracy, corrupt and a thief;
  • The public health policies during the PT administrations were also the subject of discussions involving Lula, although those were also polarized. On one hand, a series of complaints targeted the gaps in the universal healthcare system and corruption allegations. On the other hand, there were nostalgic memories of a time during which the public health was supposedly better managed. Both sides used these arguments to base their respective electoral opinions, either claiming that Lula must be elected so that advances in healthcare can continue, or defending that Bolsonaro must be elected so that healthcare does not regress.


Topics associated with Ciro Gomes on Twitter
Period: August 3 to 17

Source: Twitter | Elaborated by: FGV DAPP


  • Most of the mentions to Ciro Gomes in the economic debate were in the form of praise for his proposals. The highlights were contents related to tax reform, interest in the banking system and programs to generate employment and reduce indebtedness. Ciro Gomes’ supporters also claimed that Lula and Bolsonaro are committed to the same economic project, and only Ciro would be able to reduce inequality and improve the economy;
  • There was criticism associating Lula and Bolsonaro with corruption and criminality, while placing Ciro Gomes in opposition to the “genocidal” and the “thief”, as an alternative to polarization. Ciro Gomes also made a post criticizing Bolsonaro for not participating in a debate and calling him corrupt and genocidal. There was also repercussion of a post stating that Ciro offered himself as a hostage in place of a bishop in a rebellion when he was governor of Ceará;
  • Supporters of President Jair Bolsonaro found a video in which Ciro, during the pandemic, stated that he would arrest people who organized mass gatherings, including pastors and priests, as well as statements he made about the legalization of abortion, to criticize the presidential candidate for making videos in churches during the elections and increase the debate about health.


Topics associated with Simone Tebet on Twitter
Period: August 3 to 17


Source: Twitter | Elaborated by: FGV DAPP


  • Tebet’s participation in the interview program “Roda Viva”, on August 8, prompted repercussions in several topics related to the candidate’s government project. She used the television platform to attack her main opponents in the presidential race;
  • Her positions against easy access to guns had repercussions on the security agenda. Tebet associated recent gun crime cases with President Jair Bolsonaro’s pro-gun “hate speech”. In a tweet with significant repercussion, she mentioned the episodes that victimized the PT leader Marcelo Arruda, in Foz do Iguaçu, and the athlete Leandro Lo, in São Paulo;
    Regarding the economy, Tebet’s position against the privatization of Petrobras drew attention on the networks and was a reason for controversy, especially by pro-Bolsonaro profiles, who attributed an economic situation that is allegedly favorable to the state company to the candidate;
  • Regarding health, one of the highlights in Tebet’s speech were the bottlenecks generated in the universal healthcare system resulting from the impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic, such as the decrease in the frequency of elective surgeries.