26 Nov

Center Becomes an Option in the Municipal Elections with a Strong Presence of the Left Wing on Twitter

Updated 14 de December, 2020 at 10:56 am

  • In São Paulo, groups in favor of Guilherme Boulos represent 62.8% of the interactions, while Bolsonaro’s allies add up to 26%, and Covas’s supporters add up to only 5.3%;
  • In Rio de Janeiro, the center and the left wing joined in favor of Paes over Marcelo Crivella, who resorted to similar narratives used on the presidential race in 2018;
  • In Porto Alegre, Manuela D’Ávila was mentioned in 81.5% of the tweets related to the second round, while Sebastião Melo is cited in only 10.7%;
  • In Recife, Marília Arraes’ campaign remains with the most interacted tweets, but accusations against her ally Túlio Gadelha intensified the activity in favor of João Campos.

With five days remaining for the second round of the municipal elections in 2020, a survey by the Department of Public Policy Analysis of Fundação Getulio Vargas (FGV DAPP) identified around 1.7 million tweets about the competitions for mayor of São Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, Porto Alegre, and Recife between 12 am from November 16 and 12 pm from November 25.

The four States present distinct contexts regarding the election polls and involved political actors, being possible to make a distinction between the campaigns that attracted national discussion between left and right-wing parties (Rio de Janeiro, Sao Paulo, and Porto Alegre) and Recife’s campaign that was majorly focused on municipal topics, with candidates from the left and center-left parties facing each other. The candidacies from the center appear as options against the reorganization of the left wing in Porto Alegre and Sao Paulo, and to the right wing, more aligned with Bolsonaro, in Rio de Janeiro. However, the digital mobilization of the left points to a bias of growth.

With a National Debate, Dispute in Sao Paulo Gives Hope to the Left Wing and Strength to the Government’s Allies

The debate about the dispute for City Hall in Sao Paulo gathered more than 1.1 million of tweets and presented itself as polarized, with two groups accumulating the largest part of interactions and other three smaller groups circling around the support to Guilherme Boulos (PSOL).

The main group in favor of Guilherme Boulos (Red) gathered 42% of profiles and 51.9% of interactions in all of the debate. With a strong presence of politicians from different parties, such as Sâmia Bomfim and Ivan Valente (PSOL), Fernando Haddad, Lula and Eduardo Suplicy (PT), Flávio Dino (PCdoB) and Marina Silva (Rede), as well as digital influencers and celebrities, such as Felipe Neto, Jonas Manoel, and Xico Sá, this group was marked by tweets that declared support to the election of the PSOL candidate, and that celebrated the growth of Boulos in the election polls for the second round, mobilized by the hashtags #boulos50 and #virasp50 (overthrow Sao Paulo 50).

Map of Interactions in the Election for City Hall in Sao Paulo
From 12 am on November 16 to 12 pm on November 25

Source: Twitter | Elaboration: FGV DAPP

The Purple and Orange Groups, which together added up to 18.6% of profiles and 10.9% of interactions, brought complementary narratives to the main pro-Boulos group. The former was composed of profiles of influencers with little relationship with the institutional politics, making humorous posts in favor of the election of Guilherme Boulos. Among them, a few highlights are @romulocarvalho_, @arianedocarmo and @luide, with posts that play around with the gastronomical relationship with the names of Paes and Boulos (which resemble in Portuguese to “breads” and “cake”, respectively); with the possibility of voting in the PSOL candidate even though living in other cities; and with the accusations that the Boulos’ management would bring an economical collapse in Sao Paulo – by bringing the level of economical growth made by Bolsonaro’s government’s constituents as comparison. The latter group, in turn, was composed of profiles engaged on LGBTQI+ causes that celebrated the growth of representativity in the Chamber of Deputies in different cities across the country, especially the election of the trans woman Erika Hilton (PSOL) in Sao Paulo. A few of the highlights are the influencers and LGBTQI+ activists @alinadurso, @matheus, @agathagouveaa and @tdetravesti, who also commented on the election of Duda Salabert and Linda Brasil in the Chambers of Belo Horizonte and Aracajú, respectively.

The Blue Group was composed of profiles connected to the federal government and gathered 19.5% of profiles and 26% of interactions. This group was marked by the negative propaganda against Guilherme Boulos, framing the election in Sao Paulo not as a dispute between PSDB and PSOL, but as a clash between the resurgence of the left wing and the new right wing aligned with President Bolsonaro. The profiles connected to the federal government were divided between spreading fake news against Boulos and lamenting that a representant of the left had made his way to the second round in Sao Paulo. In the first group, one highlight was the right-wing influencer Oswaldo Eustáquio, who suffered judicial retaliation after spreading false information against Guilherme Boulos. The group debated about censorship, authoritarianism and collusion between the judicial system and the left-wing parties, engaging profiles such as of the Federal Congresswoman Bia Kicis and the influencer Te atualizei. The second group, in turn, circles around the presidency’s Special Assessor for International Matters Filipe Martins, who proposed measures to amplify the repulsion to the left beyond PT.

Finally, with 6.7% of profiles and 5.3% of interactions, there is the Pink Group, which defended the election of Bruno Covas for the City Hall in Sao Paulo. Among the main profiles, a few highlights were the State Congressman Arthur Moledo do Val, the City Councilor Fernando Holiday, and the Federal Congressman Kim Kataguiri (DEM), as well as liberal influencers such as Felippe Hermes, Ítalo Petraglia and Pedro Menezes. The highlighted topics were points about Boulos’ administrative inexperience in comparison to Covas, and tweets about the supposed economical chaos that PSOL’s management would bring to the city of Sao Paulo.

Evolution of the Debate about the Elections for City Hall in Sao Paulo
From 12 am on November 16 to 12 pm on November 25

Source: Twitter | Elaborated by: FGV DAPP

During the analyzed period, it is possible to identify that after the first few days in which several profiles from political actors and influencers declared support to the candidates, there was a substantial decline in the debates, which started to oscillate under 120 thousand mentions a day. The debate only regained momentum on the November 24th due to the repercussion of the disclosing of a research made by DataFolha in which the reduction of advantage of Covas over Boulos was identified, as well as the participation of both candidates in the interview show Roda Viva.

In Rio de Janeiro, the Debate Drops Significantly, and Fake News Turn the Left Wing into Protagonists in the Opposition of Crivella

In Rio de Janeiro, the debate about the City Hall presented an expressive drop right on November 17th, adding up altogether to 274.5 thousand tweets. The days of November 16th and 17th accumulated almost half of the interactions in all of the period, which also dropped once again on the day of 21st, starting to oscillate around 10 thousand mentions a day.

Evolution of the Debate about the Elections for City Hall in Rio de Janeiro
From 12 am on November 16 to 12 pm on November 25

Source: Twitter | Elaborated by: FGV DAPP

The peak observed on November 16 was composed mostly of messages that lamented the presence of the current mayor Marcelo Crivella in the second round. Among the content, the highlights were memes and jokes about the options of vote of the population of Rio, with emphasis on the most voted names for the Chamber of Deputies. Some profiles reminded of the strong presence of the militia in the city, celebrating the decline of Marcelo Crivella and justifying the presence of names connected to Bolsonaro with a highlight in the Chamber of Deputies.

With a huge advantage in the election polls, Eduardo Paes started to be attacked in two main narratives: the first one associates the former Governor Sérgio Cabral to the Car-Wash Operation and to former President Lula, highlighting the corruption scandals that occurred during his management and the possibility of new police operations against the former mayor; the second one focused on one baseless information that PSOL had made a deal with Paes to control the Secretary of Education in the city. The supposed accusation conducted mainly by the Federal Congressmen Otoni de Paula (PSC-RJ) and Márcio Labre (PSL-RJ) related PSOL to a project of child sexualization and pedophilia, following the patterns of remarks about the Kit-Gay that happened during the presidential race in 2018. A third narrative brought the possibility of a new total commerce lockdown in the case Crivella would not be reelected.

This accusation led left-wing politicians and influencers to intensely engage in the campaign against the current mayor, making them the strongest force of opposition in the second round.

In Porto Alegre, the Debate Circles Around Supporters and Slanderers of Manuela D’Ávila

Between the days of November 16 and 24, the debate for the City Hall in Porto Alegre added up to 169.4 thousand mentions on Twitter. As well as in Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo, the debated presented a decline throughout the second round, even if more slightly. In the first couple of days after the first round, tweets from politicians and influencers manifesting support to the election of Manuela D’Ávila (PCdoB), similarly to the support received by Guilherme Boulos, was observed.

Evolution of the Debate about the Elections for the City Hall in Porto Alegre
From 12 am on November 16 to 12 pm on November 25

The PCdoB candidate comes as the main figure of the debate, with 81.5% of interactions, while the candidate Sebastião Melo (MDB) is mentioned in only 10.7% of the posts. If in the first few days the mentions to Manuela were majorly in support of her, after the day of November 20, the inclusion of opposing narratives to her brought by conservative influencers such as Guilherme Fiuza, Alan Lopes and Oswaldo Eustáquio was observed. The criticisms brought suspicion to a supposed partisanship in the TSE after a meeting between Manuela and the institution’s president Luís Roberto Barroso. They also criticized Manuela’s tweet calling for a protest in the supermarket Carrefour after the murder of a black man in one of its units in Porto Alegre.

Dispute between Left and Center Left Makes Recife the Capital with Most Local Debate

Differently from the observed in other capitals, where there was a decline of the debate in the second round, the debate about the elections for the City Hall in Recife presented a significant increase in the days of November 23 and 24. More than 116 thousand tweets about the race were identified, which presented a less polarized discussion between left and right wings if compared to other States.

Evolution of the Debate about the Elections for the City Hall in Recife
From 12 am on November 16 to 12 pm on November 25

Source: Twitter | Elaborated by: FGV DAPP


The support group of Marília Arraes (PT) showed to be more present on social media, being the most predominant one among the tweets with most interactions. Marília’s own profile shows up as a protagonist in the debates, being accompanied by other figures of left-wing leadership throughout the whole country, as well by artists and local influencers with strong influence on the youngest groups of the population, such as singers and pages dedicated to Brega and Brega Funk. The peak of mentions in the days of November 23 and 24 refers to the activity of profiles in support to the PT candidate, with criticism to the campaign of João Campos (PSB) after the circulation of a pamphlet with moral accusations against Marília.

The profiles that supported João Campos’ campaign, in turn, amplified his presence on social media with criticism to the Federal Congressman – as well as Marília Arraes’ supporter – Túlio Gadelha (PDT-PE), who, on November 22, accused Campos’ campaign for trying to “buy his silence” on the second round. On the day of the 24, the criticism increased after the disclosing of an audio in which Gadelha allegedly recommended Marília to practice “rachadinha” (the illegal practice of using ghost employees to pay part of their salaries to the employer) in her campaign.