28 May

Covid inquiry increases digital engagement of senators on Twitter

Digital performance of senators in the Covid inquiry

Updated 21 de June, 2021 at 3:31 pm

  • Supporters of the federal government account for more than 50% of the total interactions on Twitter and comment on the “mission accomplished” by Eduardo Pazuello and on the persecution of the Brazilian president; opposition sectors account for 59.3% of the profiles;
  • The debate reached peaks of mentions on the two days of the testimony given by the former minister of Health, Eduardo Pazuello;
  • Among independent or opposition senators Alessandro Vieira (CIDADANIA-SE), Randolfe Rodrigues (REDE-AP) and Renan Calheiros (MDB-AL) presented the best averages of weekly interactions during the period of the inquiry; Angelo Coronel (PSD-BA) and Omar Aziz (PSD-AM) had the highest relative increase;
  • Among senators aligned with the government, Marcos Rogério (DEM-RO) stood out in terms of performance on Twitter, with an increase of more than 3,000% in his average volume of interactions between the inquiry period and the beginning of the year.

Evolution of mentions to the Covid inquiry on Twitter
Period: May 18 at midnight until May 25 at midnight, 2021

Source: Twitter | Elaborated by: FGV DAPP

From May 18 at midnight until May 25 at midnight, 2021, a survey by the Department of Public Policy Analysis at Fundação Getulio Vargas (FGV DAPP) identified 4.1 million mentions to the Covid inquiry (“CPI da Covid”) on Twitter. The debate gained a larger repercussion on May 19 at 3:00 pm, with 14,285 thousand posts, due to statements made by the former Health Minister Eduardo Pazuello, when he defended that President Jair Bolsonaro did not interfere in the purchase of vaccines and when considering his departure from the Ministry of Health a “mission accomplished”. At this moment, the debate on Twitter made ironic comments with the expressions “mission accomplished” and “omission accomplished”, emphasizing the slowness in vaccination and the large number of deaths among victims of Covid-19 in Brazil. Another moment of great mobilization in the debate took place on May 20 at 3:00 pm, with 12,039 thousand posts, when several posts mentioned the inquiry as supposedly a form of “electoral platform” for 2022, blaming and persecuting the current president, in the wake of a speech given by senator Marcos Rogério (DEM-RO), who criticized the actions of governors and mayors in the fight against the pandemic.

Map of interactions in the debate about the Covid inquiry on Twitter
Period: May 18 at midnight until May 25 at midnight, 2021

Source: Twitter | Elaborated by: FGV DAPP

Blue – 34.3% of profiles | 53.4% of interactions
Group composed of journalists, profiles identifying as conservative, and politicians who support the federal government, driving the debate by stating that the Covid inquiry is a way to persecute President Jair Bolsonaro (no party) and exempt the governors. Some posts highlighted the alleged efficacy of the medication hydroxychloroquine, criticized the opposition’s attempts to build narratives to delegitimize the use of chloroquine, and stated that the inquiry is being used as a “smoke screen” to avoid investigating the misuse of public funds.

Red – 51.1% of profiles | 41.4% of interactions
Group composed of communication outlets and politicians opposing the federal government, who denounced the Brazilian president and called him “genocidal”, claiming that he is to blame for the decisions not to intervene in the State of Amazonas, which escalated the health crisis and increased the death toll in that region, as well as the sabotaging the social distancing strategies developed by some governors. The group also had posts showing indignation about the insistence of federal government supporters in defending the use of chloroquine as a form of early treatment for the disease instead of investing in vaccines and in the immunization of Brazilians.

Yellow – 8.3% of profiles | 3.6% of interactions
Group composed of comedy profiles, journalists and ordinary users, who criticized Pazuello’s behavior of promoting agglomerations together with President Jair Bolsonaro (no party) and compared the testimonies given by the former Health Minister to the one given by the former president Dilma Rousseff – emphasizing the contrast between the former president’s bravery and the discomfort shown by the former minister when answering the Senate’s questions. In addition, ironic posts showed support and behaved like “fans” of the senator Renan Calheiros (MDB-AL), the rapporteur for the Covid inquiry.

The senators of the committee on Twitter

Out of the 18 senators directly involved in the inquiry (11 members and 7 substitutes), 16 have a Twitter account. Between January 1st and Mary 24, they published 5,988 tweets, out of which 30% were posted since April 27, when the inquiry started. For this analysis, we calculated the average number of weekly interactions per tweet for each of the senators since January 1st.

Average weekly interactions in publications made by senators who are members and substitute members of the Covid inquiry on Twitter
Period: January 1st to May 24, 2021

Source: Twitter | Elaborated by: FGV DAPP

The graph illustrates not only the different patterns of reach and performance for each senator, but also the effect of the inquiry on their level of digital engagement. Regarding reach, senators such as Alessandro Vieira (CIDADANIA-SE), Randolfe Rodrigues (REDE-AP), Renan Calheiros (MDB-AL), Humberto Costa (PT-PE), and Jorginho Mello (PL-SC) showed an average that was usually above 500 interactions in several weeks. A second group of representatives, including Marcos do Val (PODEMOS-ES), Rogério Carvalho (PT-SE), Ciro Nogueira (PP-PI), and Tasso Jereissati (PSDB-CE) showed an average engagement below 500 interactions in most weeks, although they also showed stability in their network performance. Lastly, there is a group of senators who have no penetration or continuity regarding Twitter communication.

Regarding the impact of the inquiry on the average monthly level of engagement of the senators, there was a significant increase in the interactions of senators opposed to the government, such as Alessandro Vieira (CIDADANIA-SE), Randolfe Rodrigues (REDE-AP) and Renan Calheiros (MDB- AL), as well as a smaller increase for senator Humberto Costa (PT-PE). Regarding the volume of interactions between the first months in the period and May, senators Angelo Coronel (PSD-BA) and Omar Aziz (PSD-AM) stood out, increasing by 2,032% and 1,944%, respectively.

Regarding the government support group, there was the very significant rise of senator Marcos Rogério (DEM-RO), who increased his engagement by 3.311% in the comparison between May and the beginning of the year. The weeks of May 16 and 23, in particular, represented a turning point in the Rondônia senator’s reach, with the publication of videos that allegedly incriminate governors and mayors for crimes investigated against the federal government in the context of the inquiry.

The senators of the committee on Facebook

All of the 18 senators directly involved in the inquiry (11 members and 7 substitutes) have a Facebook account. Between January 1st and Mary 24, they made 11,022 publications, which generated 39,8 million interactions. Like on Twitter, we calculated the average number of weekly interactions per publication for each of the senators since January 1st.

Average weekly interactions in publications made by senators who are members and substitute members of the Covid inquiry on Facebook
Period: January 1st to May 24, 2021

Source: Facebook | Elaborated by: FGV DAPP

On Facebook, in turn, no significant change was identified in the average volume of interactions in the context of the inquiry. It is interesting to note a change in the level of average Twitter volumes, with the most relevant senators reaching numbers between five and ten thousand interactions at different times. The inquiry did not account for the highest peak of interactions for the senators with the highest level of engagement in the period; that only happened for Ciro Nogueira (PP-PI), Marcos Rogério (DEM-RO) and Renan Calheiros (MDB-AL).

Those three senators had the greatest increase in interactions in the period, particularly Marcos Rogério (DEM-RO), who saw an increase of 268.8%, and Ciro Nogueira (PP-PI), with an increase of 206.6%. One hypothesis to explain the low impact of the inquiry is the more frequent use of Facebook as a platform for institutional communication and mobilization of supporters than Twitter, which is more associated with reactions to hot topics regarding political news.

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