01 Sep

Debate expands reach of the third way and places sexism at the center of the electoral discussion

Updated 12 de September, 2022 at 11:09 am

  • The reach of other candidates brought diversity to the discussion about the electoral race, but the polarization maintained Lula and Bolsonaro as the most mentioned names after the Band debate;
  • Left-wing group accounted for almost double the amount of profiles in the pro-Bolsonaro group, but is still behind in number of interactions;
  • Bolsonaro’s and Ciro’s supporters mobilized against Lula, bringing the two support groups closer together.
  • The dispute between Bolsonaro and female candidates, as well as the attack against the journalist Vera Magalhães, marked the discussion and mobilized the topic of sexism on the networks.

The first television debate between the major presidential candidates was hosted by Band last Sunday (28) and was a highlight in the discussions about the 2022 elections. Those were the findings of a survey by the FGV School of Communication, which identified 7.8 million mentions about the electoral debate between August 28 and 29. The mentions to presidential candidates reached very high levels for the period analyzed: Bolsonaro was mentioned around 3.8 million times, Lula was mentioned around 2.7 million times, and Ciro was mentioned a little over 1 million times. They were followed by the senators Simone and Soraya, with 568 thousand and 400 thousand mentions, respectively. The candidate for Novo, Felipe d’Avila, did not reach more than 50 thousand mentions.

The discussion about sexism was a highlight in the comments about Bolsonaro, Ciro, Simone and Soraya, especially in the face of the episode involving the journalist Vera Magalhães. In this discussion, Bolsonaro’s image was harmed mostly among female voters. Ciro, despite facing less criticism, was still targeted for not defending the journalist. In turn, Simone and Soraya were praised for their position against the president. Lula was far from this debate, attracting negative mentions about security/corruption and positive mentions regarding the economy. Felipe d’Avila’s repercussion was restricted to economy topics, particularly regarding the emphasis on privatization proposals, which appeared in ironic messages.


Map of interactions in mentions to presidential hopefuls on Twitter
Period: August 28th to 29th

Source: Twitter | Elaborated by: FGV ECMI


Left wing – 58.1% of profiles | 40.5% of interactions
Group formed by left-wing political figures, journalists and influencers, focusing on Lula’s and André Janones’ official profiles. Establishing a few points of contact with the cluster representing the third way, the highlights were posts mentioning Bolsonaro’s rejection, emphasizing discussions on statistics such as hunger and inflation, Bolsonaro’s allegedly sexist behavior and his statements that Lula is a former inmate. There was also an indirect mobilization of criticism against Simone Tebet and her position regarded as “anti-indigenous”. This group also saw statements of support and solidarity to the journalist Vera Magalhães.

Right wing – 31.5% of profiles | 52.3% of interactions
Group composed of politicians, journalists, influencers and supporters of the conservative right. Jair Bolsonaro’s official profile is the major actor in the group. Messages about attacks, “lies” and comments about “thieves” were published by the president’s account referring to Lula and the PT, setting the tone of the most shared messages. The narrative of an “independent president” equipped with a qualified but allegedly misunderstood technical team marked the candidate’s speech after the debate. The pro-Bolsonaro group pointed out attempts of “lacração” and “unfounded attacks” against the candidate, suggesting an articulated attack against him.

Third way ‒ 6.5% of profiles | 6.5% of interactions
Group formed by politicians, public figures and journalists closer to the so-called third way, centered on profiles aligned with Ciro Gomes. The highlights were publications made by the actress and Ciro’s ex-wife, Patrícia Pillar, who defended and showed her support to the candidate after Ciro was attacked with allegations that he assaulted her. Criticism targeting the PT and Lula were also dominant in this group, which could explain its points of contact between this group and the cluster aligned with the former president.


Major tweets by political group on Twitter
Period: August 28th to 29th

Source: Twitter | Elaborated by: FGV ECMI

Evolution of mentions to presidential hopefuls on Twitter
Period: August 28th to 29th

Source: Twitter | Elaborated by: FGV ECMI


  • Mentions to the presidential candidates increased during the debate, with a focus on comments about Bolsonaro and Lula. There was criticism of both candidates, with claims that they were giving false statements. In turn, the discussion between Ciro and Lula mobilized the debate about the PDT candidate, who was praised by Bolsonaro’s supporters.
  • Soraya Thronicke and Simone Tebet had a similar number of mentions. However, the comments about the senators had different contents: while Thronicke prompted a series of memes, comments about Tebet focused on her discussion with Bolsonaro. Fernando D’Avilla, the candidate for Novo, was mentioned in comic and critical comments.
  • Mentions to the presidential candidates increased again in the morning of August 29, except for D’Avilla. Bolsonaro’s attack against the journalist Vera Magalhães was a highlight in the discussion. Bolsonaro’s supporters claimed that the journalist deserved the attack, while the opposition stated that the action harmed the president’s support from female electors. The fact that Ciro did not defend Vera Magalhães prompted criticism of his posture.
  • Still regarding the aftermath of the debate, the government support group was mobilized to attack Tebet. In addition to criticism against the senator, there was frequent use of hashtags such as #Bolsonaroreeleito (“Bolsonaro re-elected”). Tebet was also criticized by a portion of the left. The narrative in the discussion claimed that Tebet is a “false” feminist due to her liberal positions, as well as “anti-indigenous”.
  • There was also a considerable increase in mentions to Thronicke. Moments before the debate, mentions to the senator were close to zero, but during August 29, the comments about Soraya reached the thousands. The highlight was criticism coming from both sides of the political spectrum, as well as requests that Soraya reveals what she knows about Bolsonaro. In tunr, D’Ávilla did not see an increase. After the debate, he had a very small number of mentions.


Cloud of topics in the Band debate on Twitter
Period: August 28th to 29th

Source: Twitter | Elaborated by: FGV ECMI


  • The journalist Vera Magalhães was called a “shame of Brazilian journalism” by Bolsonaro after a question about the president’s contempt for women, which prompted significant messages of support as well as attacks from Bolsonaro’s supporters, who claimed she was “prejudiced”;
  • Simone Tebet’s active posture, particularly regarding Lula and Bolsonaro, prompted positive mentions to the candidate. Other highlights were subtle nods to the PT candidates and comments about Bolsonaro’s violence against Brazilian women;
  • The triad “God, Country and Family” used by Bolsonaro in his final speech during the debate was compared to the “motto created by fascism” used by Brazilian integralism. A publication made by the profile “Judeus pela Democracia” went viral. The post showed a document containing the symbol of the Nazi swastika together with the same motto, exhibited at the Jewish Museum of São Paulo;
  • Another highlight was the fight between Ricardo Salles and André Janones behind the scenes in the debate. Salles was called a “trouble maker” and users highlighted the environmental crimes for which he is being investigated, which had negative repercussions for Bolsonaro;
    Recent fake news about Lula supporting “persecution against Christians” and the “closure of churches” were shared by Bolsonaro and mobilized by his followers against the PT candidate;
  • Lula’s promise that he would revoke Bolsonaro’s 100-year secrecy imposition prompted criticism of the current president. The moment was seen as a strong movement by the PT candidate, who, according to users, allegedly chose a “defensive” strategy;
  • The expression “former-inmate Lula”, used by Bolsoanro in the debate, was instantly appropriated by the president’s support group to attack the PT candidate, in addition to the expression “legal maneuver”. The term also mobilized Lula’s support group, who posted messages stating that Bolsonaro was also a “former inmate”.


YouTube links about the Band debate
Period: August 28th to 29th

Source: YouTube | Elaborated by: FGV ECMI


  • The polarization of the political scene was reflected in the videos about the electoral debate on YouTube, with a focus on confrontations between Bolsonaro and Lula. The pro-Bolsonaro perspective stood out on this network, with videos indicating that the president had a better performance in the debate, surpassing Lula and the alleged bias of the media. Bolsonaro’s attack against the journalist Vera Magalhães appeared very indirectly, which could indicate an attempt to hush up the situation.


Association of topics with presidential candidates

Association of Lula with topics mentioned in the Band debate
Period: August 28th to 29th

Source: Twitter | Elaborated by: FGV ECMI


  • The moment when Bolsonaro called Lula a former inmate mobilized the debate about security/corruption, especially with criticism of the PT candidate. The fact that Lula’s response request was denied by the Band commission also prompted comments joking about the former president. Bolsonaro’s supporters predominated in this discussion, using the term “former inmate” to refer to the PT candidate. The debate about corruption also ramified into another dispute. On one hand, there was criticism of the PT candidate, listing scandals of his administration and promoting hashtags such as #LulaLadrão (“Lula is a thief”) and #PTnuncamais (“PT never more”). On the other hand, there were comments stating that corruption in the Bolsonaro administration was much worse.
  • Regarding the economy, there was a predominance of comments supporting Lula, with many mentions to the discussion between the PT candidate and Soraya Thronicke, in which he stated that the senator may not have noticed the changes in the country, but her employees did. These comments carried an affectional tone when mentioning the social policies of the Lula administration.
  • Comments made by the government support group and by Ciro Gomes’ supporters mobilized the discussion about disinformation, with statements that Lula is a liar. However, PT supporters also participated in this debate, inverting the accusations and claiming that Bolsonaro and Ciro were publishing false information. There was a distancing between Lula and Ciro, who is currently closer to Bolsonaro.
  • The discussion between Lula and Simone regarding the administration of Covid-19 pandemic and the 100-year secrecy imposed on the action against the former minister General Pazuello prompted a discussion on health. Lula’s attack on Bolsonaro mobilized praise for the former president, with comments indicating that people expected someone to talk about the topic.
  • Education was mentioned more indirectly on Twitter, with a highlight to comments praising the educational policies of the Lula administration. The narrative in this part of the debate carried a hopeful tone and indicated that the PT candidate could fix the damaged caused by Bolsonaro.


Association of Bolsonaro with topics mentioned in the Band debate
Period: August 28th to 29th

Source: Twitter | Elaborated by: FGV ECMI


  • Regarding security/corruption, data showing that Bolsonaro was the president who invested the least in policies to fight violence against women went viral among left-wing profiles after the debate. The robbery in which Bolsonaro had his gun stolen was remembered by Lula and mobilized by users to criticize his security policy centered on arming the population. Bolsonaro was also criticized for choosing ministers involved in corruption scandals, and was associated with terms such as “secret budget”, “salary deviation” and “corruption at the MEC”.
  • Sexism was associated with the candidate due to his previous statements against women, which were remembered in the debate, but mostly because of situations involving Bolsonaro, the two female candidates and the journalist Vera Magalhães during the debate. The candidate’s attacks prompted initiatives to support the women, particularly Magalhães.
  • Disinformation was mentioned by some users in relation to distorted facts regarding the Emergency Aid cited by the candidate. In turn, Bolsonaro’s support group was mobilized around his accusations that interviewers and candidates were lying.
  • Ciro Gomes pointed out Bolsonaro’s “insensitivity” in the administration of the Covid-19 pandemic, which prompted mentions in the topic of health. References to the delay of the vaccine process and the overpricing of vaccines were recurring topics within this topic.


Association of Ciro Gomes with topics mentioned in the Band debate
Period: August 28th to 29th

Source: Twitter | Elaborated by: FGV ECMI


  • The fact that Bolsonaro chose Ciro instead of Soraya or Simone to talk about agendas aimed at women mobilized the debate on sexism, which was driven by criticism of the president and more neutral comments about the PDT candidate. The discussion also included criticism of Ciro for not defending Vera Magalhães after she was attacked by Bolsonaro.
  • The discussion about security was marked by Ciro’s criticism of Bolsonaro regarding the gun carry policy. There was praise of Ciro’s posture and comments joking about the episode in which a thief stole Bolsonaro’s gun. On the other hand, Ciro was mocked in the discussion about the economy after promising to remove debtors from the SPC (a Brazilian credit reporting agency) in three days. The promise was seen as absurd and utopic.
  • The confrontation between Lula and Ciro drove the debate on disinformation, with both sides accusing each other of spreading false information about the opponent. The discussion on education was also very intense: on one hand, there was praise for Ciro’s educational policy, citing statistics from the state of Ceará; on the other hand, there was criticism indicating that the candidate does not care about education, and that Ceará’s positive statistics are not a consequence of his administration.


Association of Simone Tebet with topics mentioned in the Band debate
Period: August 28th to 29th

Source: Twitter | Elaborated by: FGV ECMI


  • Sexism was the major topic in mentions related to Simone Tebet, particularly criticism coming from the left stating that the senator is not a true feminist. In addition, Bolsonaro’s supporters commented on his statement remembering the presence of Doctor Nise Yamaguchi at the Covid-19 inquiry and claiming that Tebet victimizes herself and does not care about women. The government support group also mobilized simultaneous attacks against Vera Magalhães and Tebet.
  • Regarding health, the highlight was praise for the Tebet’s statements during the debate, which were widely shared. In particular, her criticism of the administration of the Covid-19 pandemic by the federal government was praised, emphasizing the president’s alleged insensitivity.
  • Tebet’s statements about political violence drove the discussion about security, with favorable comments. The debate was also marked by the moment when the senator stated that Bolsonaro defended a murderer and torturer, with a highlight to publications referring to Carlos Alberto Brilhante Ustra. In this discussion, there was also a predominance of comments agreeing with Tebet.
  • The discussions about disinformation and education appeared in a much more indirect way. Regarding disinformation, there was a predominance of criticism stating that the senator was spreading lies about Bolsonaro. Regarding education, there were comments about Simone’s proposal to distribute 5 thousand reais to each student who concludes high school, with many memes joking about the project.


Association of Soraya Thronicke with topics mentioned in the Band debate
Period: August 28th to 29th

Source: Twitter | Elaborated by: FGV ECMI


  • Soraya’s statements against Bolsonaro’s attack to the journalist Vera Magalhães had a very good repercussion to the candidate, particularly due to the associations made with the term “tchuchuca”, which recently went viral. There was an understanding that the candidate was able to oppose Bolsonaro’s sexism.
  • The economy was also a highlight in mentions to the senator, with a predominance of criticism against her after Lula stated that she did not notice the economic improvements of his administration, but her employees did. Soraya’s proposal of developing a universal tax also drove the debate, with comments claiming it is a utopic project.
  • In the discussion about security, there were requests that Soraya reveals information that might harm Bolsonaro, as she said in the debate. Regarding disinformation, there was a positive repercussion for the candidate due to the fact that she contradicted Bolsonaro, indicating that his administration wanted to grant only 200 reais in emergency aid.
  • Regarding health, Soraya’s statements about taking the Covid-19 vaccine and not becoming an alligator (referring to Bolsonaro’s infamous statement during the pandemic) also prompted positive comments for the senator.


Association of Felipe D’Avila with topics mentioned in the Band debate
Period: August 28th to 29th

Source: Twitter | Elaborated by: FGV ECMI


  • Regarding the economy, the frequency with which d’Avila used terms such as “privatization” and “agribusiness” prompted memes and ironic messages that pointed to a restricted narrative by the candidate. Regarding privatization, this perception was further developed by maintaining the comical tone of the previous topic and reinforcing a caricatured atmosphere around the candidate;
  • The candidate’s claim that Brazilian agribusiness is the most sustainable in the world was highlighted in the topic of theenvironment. It mobilized both criticism from left-wing users and support from the pro-Bolsonaro group, which declared Lula an enemy of that economic model.