29 Apr

Bolsonaro and Lula use “lacres”, memes and irony to increase engagement

Updated 10 de May, 2022 at 5:03 pm

  • While Lula plays with his own image, the president makes ironic comments with political opponents;
  • Despite having little room for his candidacy, Moro remains one of the names with the highest reach among center-right profiles;
  • Groups opposing Bolsonaro account for 55% of the profiles, but the president’s support group is more active and represents more than 58% of the interactions.

Seeking to increase engagement, the major presidential pre-candidates, Bolsonaro and Lula, have been focusing on making ironic and comical publications and comments on social media platforms. A survey by the Department of Public Policy Analysis at Fundação Getulio Vargas (FGV DAPP) showed that, between April 4 and 24, there were more than 37.7 million interactions and views in the profiles, pages and channels of the presidential hopefuls Jair Bolsonaro (PL), Lula (PT), Ciro Gomes (PDT), João Doria (PSDB), Simone Tebet (MDB) and Eduardo Leite (PSDB) on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and YouTube.

Bolsonaro and Lula remain the candidates with the highest reach in interactions on Twitter and Instagram, with peaks of engagement associated with specific publications. On Facebook, Bolsonaro continues to have a large advantage in volume of interactions. Ciro continues to lead on YouTube, particularly in videos promoting the campaign #TaNaHoraDeVocêOlharProCiro (“It’s time to look at Ciro”). The discussion between Anitta and Bolsonaro and the singer’s posts about the president’s digital communication strategies generated an anti-Bolsonaro group associated with entertainment page and reactions to left-wing and center-left groups. The pardon granted to Daniel Silveira (PTB-RJ) intensified the debate in the group supporting Bolsonaro at the end of the month and was criticized by the pre-candidates Ciro Gomes and João Doria.

Although the language adopted by the different political fields on social networks shares the same irony, “lacres”* and memes, the patterns of the interactions mobilized by the profiles on each side seem to indicate different strategies to articulate and communicate with the public.

On one hand, the publications in the left-wing field spread over a more diverse public, which could indicate a strategy of building bridges with users who are not usually interested in politics. In this case, the adoption of a type of language and behavior that is typical of social networks could be an instrument to become closer to the younger, more active public in this environment. The “lacres” become a shortcut to the hearts and minds of the younger public that orbits the digital arena of political communication.

On the other hand, in the right-wing field, the concentration of a higher level of engagement among fewer users indicates a strengthening of previously established and consolidated relationships between supporters of President Jair Bolsonaro. In this case, the strategy is to use the language typical of social networks seeking to arm the public with arguments and interpretations about the major political facts in a given period.

For the presidential hopefuls attempting to establish themselves as the third way, the adoption of political communication strategies in digital environments is present in a small number of messages focusing on using a framework that is more accessible do the younger political public, as well as a harsh, direct and critical discourse against the candidates leading in the election polls.

General debate

Map of interactions in mentions to presidential hopefuls on Twitter
Period: April 4 to 26

Source: Twitter | Elaborated by: FGV DAPP

Red – 37.53% of profiles | 30.27% of interactions
Group formed by left-wing profiles, activists and politicians, heavily influenced by the former president Lula. This group had the most profiles in the period, but the volume of interactions was much lower than in the group aligned with the right wing. Lula published the tweets with the most interactions in the group, with a highlight to posts making jokes about himself. Other highlights included criticism against Bolsonaro, memories of Lula’s administration, and the official announcement of his presidential ticket with Geraldo Alckmin. There was internal conflict in the group with publications made by progressive profiles criticizing the lack of black people and women in the formalization of the alliance between Lula and Alckmin.

Blue – 35.23% of profiles | 58.63% of interactions
Group formed around President Jair Bolsonaro. It had almost the same volume of profiles as the group associated with Lula, and accounted for 60% of the interactions in the debate about presidential hopefuls in this period, which indicates a high level of activity in the profiles. President Jair Bolsonaro was responsible for the tweets with the highest number of interactions in the group. The major publications included news about works and measures taken by the government in the areas of electricity and security. However, there was a presence of profiles making ironic criticism of opponents in the fields of politics and culture.

Pink – 12.87% of profiles | 2.98% of interactions
Group formed around celebrities, profiles of young people and entertainment pages that engaged in political topics in this period. The major publications in this group showed opposition to the Jair Bolsonaro administration, even though the posts did not necessarily declare support to other pre-candidates. The singer Anitta was a big highlight after having a public discussion with Bolsonaro on the platform and publishing tweets explaining the president’s new digital communication strategies. She was supported by political actors such as Ciro Gomes and Gleisi Hoffmann.

Green – 3.79% of profiles | 2.73% of interactions
Group formed by profiles aligned with center-right candidacies, particularly the pre-candidate for PSDB, João Doria, and the former minister Sergio Moro. The former governor of São Paulo leveraged political facts such as the debate about the secrecy granted to governmental documents and the pardon granted to the congressman Daniel Silveira (PTB-RJ) to indicate potential actions he would take if elected. However, there were many publications criticizing his political performance, mostly coming from profiles aligned with Bolsonaro. In turn, Sergio Moro remains able to generate engagement on the network, particularly by responding to the criticism of political opponents. Profiles in this group made publications claiming that Moro’s candidacy is being boycotted by the political parties.

Orange – 2.93% of profiles | 3.96% of interactions
Group formed by center-left profiles centered around the pre-candidate for PDT, Ciro Gomes. Ciro was the most central profile in the group and drove the interaction through three major narratives: harshly criticizing of the decision by President Jair Bolsonaro to pardon the congressman Daniel Silveira (PTB-RJ); criticizing Lula’s silence regarding the episode; and releasing videos with the campaign #TáNaHoraDeVocêOlharProCiro.

Major tweets inside the groups in the map of interactions
Period: Period: April 4 to 26

Source: Twitter | Elaborated by: FGV DAPP

Debate about the Daniel Silveira case

The mentions about the Daniel Silveira case in the debate about the presidential hopefuls on Twitter had more than 447 thousand tweets, with a peak of more than 100 thousand tweets at 6 pm on April 21, the moment when the pardon was granted by President Jair Bolsonaro. The debate about the case accounted for 9.2% of the total number of interactions about presidential hopefuls. The right-wing group had the highest volume of interactions about this topic, followed by the left-wing group associated with former president Lula. The silence of former president Lula regarding the case was harshly criticized by profiles in the groups associated with the center-right and the pre-candidate for PDT, Ciro Gomes. However, the engagement with this case was relatively lower in these groups than in the group associated with Lula.

Map of interactions in mentions to the Daniel Silveira case in the debate about presidential hopefuls on Twitter
Period: April 4 to 26

Source: Twitter | Elaborated by: FGV DAPP

Red ‒ 7.72% of interactions
Group formed by profiles and influencers associated with left-wing parties, particularly PT and PSOL. The debate about the Daniel Silveira case accounted for 7.72% of the interactions in the group and harshly criticized the decision by President Jair Bolsonaro to pardon the congressman. The mentions were divided into three major arguments: memories of the PT administration in moments of legal losses, highlighting the respect given to institutions; comments claiming there is safe-conduct for Bolsonaro supporters to attack institutions and authorities; shared videos and statements made by Bolsonaro condemning the possibility to pardon Lula if Haddad were elected in 2018; and texts arguing that Bolsonaro has a history of collusion with corruption.

Blue ‒ 11.24% of interactions
Group with the highest percentage of interactions associated with the Daniel Silveira case. This group was formed by profiles of right-wing influencers and politicians who celebrated President Bolsonaro’s decision pardon the congressman, after the decision by the Supreme Court to sentence him to more than 8 years in prison. The decision was seen as a defense of freedom of speech and the Constitution against illegitimate advances and persecution by the Supreme Court. Two other secondary narratives also appeared in the main publications: recollections of statements made by Ciro Gomes and Manuela D’Avila about the intention to pardon Lula if either were elected president in 2018, and debates and accommodations in relation to the vote of Minister André Mendonça, who also sentenced Daniel Silveira with a softer penalty.

Orange ‒ 2.81% of interactions
Group formed around the pre-candidate for PDT, Ciro Gomes. Ciro’s central role in condemning Bolsonaro’s decision to pardon Daniel Silveira stood out as he announced the party’s intention to propose legal measures to reverse the decision. However, among Ciro’s supporters, the tweets with the most interactions were critical comments about the silence of former president Lula regarding the case.

Green ‒ 2.73% of interactions
Group formed around profiles and politicians associated with the center-right, with emphasis on the pre-candidate for PSDB, João Doria. In the tweet with the most interactions in the group, the former governor of São Paulo stated that, if elected, he would not grant pardons and would also end “out-of-prison” benefits for inmates. Among the profiles supporting Doria, there were posts doubting the continuation and consolidation of the pardon and predicting a potential naturalization of the practice by other governments, mostly on the left wing. The Supreme Court was also the target of criticism, with memories and criticisms of the institution’s performance in the decisions that resulted in Lula’s release and eligibility.

Pink ‒ 0.55% of interactions
Group formed by celebrities, young people and entertainment profiles. This group showed a low level of engagement regarding Daniel Silveira’s pardon. Among the few tweets mentioning the case, the highlights were messages asking for the opinion of celebrities such as Anitta and Felipe Neto.

Interactions in the profiles of presidential hopefuls

Evolution of interactions in the profiles of presidential hopefuls on Twitter
Analysis period: April 4 to 24 | Aggregated per week

Source: Twitter | Elaborated by: FGV DAPP

  • After weeks of decline, President Jair Bolsonaro had a slight recovery in the number of interactions on Twitter and is once again in the lead of presidential hopefuls. Among the posts with the most interactions, the highlights were a publication joking about a post in which Lula announced Geraldo Alckmin as his vice president and the announcement of the Daniel Silveira’s pardon;
  • The former president Lula had a sharp decrease in the number of interactions on the platform during the first weeks of the month, with less than 20 thousand retweets and likes between April 9 and 10. His number of interactions started to grow again starting from April 16. The posts with the highest engagement on the platform are those that use humor;
  • The presidential hopeful Ciro Gomes continued to have a stable number of interactions. Despite Sérgio Moro’s withdrawal from the race, the former minister remains isolated as the third name with the highest number of interactions on Twitter.

Facebook

Evolution of interactions in the profiles of presidential hopefuls on Facebook
Analysis period: April 4 to 24 | Aggregated per week

Source: Facebook | Elaborated by: FGV DAPP

  • President Jair Bolsonaro remained in the lead on Facebook with almost 5 times more interactions than the second place, former president Lula. The post with the highest volume of interactions was the announcement of the presidential decree that pardoned Daniel Silveira, with 496,059 interactions. On this platform, the president has more engagement with content announcing public agendas and Federal Government programs;
  • Interactions with presidential candidate Lula had a slight decline after weeks of growth on Facebook. Despite having presented a lower volume of interactions per week – between 700 and 900 thousand -, the former president’s performance is still higher compared to the beginning of the year. On this platform, Lula continued to have better results in posts with pre-campaign agendas;
  • The other candidates continued to show a stable number of interactions on the platform. Ciro Gomes stood out with lighter content, while João Doria commented on the pardon granted to Daniel Silveira.

Instagram

Evolution of interactions in the profiles of presidential hopefuls on Instagram
Analysis period: April 4 to 24 | Aggregated per week

Source: Instagram | Elaborated by: FGV DAPP

  • On Instagram, President Jair Bolsonaro has twice the number of interactions of former president Lula. Bolsonaro’s biggest peak was on April 16, in a post reproducing a tweet mentioning the singer Anitta. On this platform, there is greater engagement in ironic content that mentions the opposition and political adversaries;
  • Despite having a lower number of interactions accumulated per week than President Bolsonaro, the former President Lula posted content with a high volume of interactions throughout the period analyzed. Once again, there was content with a more comical or personal tone, such as a photo of the former president with sunglasses and at the gym;
  • Ciro Gomes, Eduardo Leite and João Doria had a very similar number of interactions, oscillating at different times over the weeks in third place. The biggest peak was a post made by Eduardo Leite talking about the samba schools parade in Rio de Janeiro.

YouTube

Evolution of interactions in the profiles of presidential hopefuls on YouTube
Analysis period: April 4 to 24 | Aggregated per week

Source: YouTube | Elaborated by: FGV DAPP

  • Despite remaining in first place for much of the analyzed period, the presidential hopeful Ciro Gomes lost his advantage over Jair Bolsonaro and had a significant drop in the volume of interactions after the week of April 18. Ciro’s two most prominent videos – with around 300,000 views – criticized Lula and Bolsonaro and presented Ciro as a third option;
  • President Bolsonaro recovered and surpassed the presidential hopeful Ciro Gomes in number of interactions through weekly live broadcasts and with the statement announcing the pardon granted to Daniel Silveira;
  • Former President Lula also had a drop in the number of interactions on YouTube, reaching just over 500 thousand views, half the number of interactions he had in the previous period.

*lacre: Portuguese slang originally meaning “to do well” in an argument.

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