04 Nov

Brazilian polarization reflects Trump vs. Biden opposition as expectations grow around US election result

Updated 10 de November, 2020 at 11:05 am

  • The debate on Twitter in Brazil had 1.3 million mentions in Portuguese to the election in the United States until 1 p.m. this Wednesday (04), with a strong pro-Donald Trump group opposed to a majority group formed by the left wing and the center supporting Joe Biden;
  • With no strong presence of political actors in either field, the debate focused on the slow vote counting in decision states, with the pro-Trump group sharing reports of fraud in case Biden wins, articulating with the conservative media in the USA. The Republican victory in Florida was especially celebrated; 
  • Two other groups participated in the discussion. One of them was formed mostly by young people and mobilized by digital influencers joking about the slot counting and the US political system, comparting it negatively to the Brazilian system. Another group had a strong partisan position and focused on the vote counting in Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania;
  • However, pro-Trump channels on Youtube are a large majority with the most popular videos, criticizing a potential Democrat win and associating it with socialism, reporting fraud, and debating about the national sovereignty of the Amazon;


Almost 24 hours after the closing of the first electoral precincts in the Unites States, in the afternoon of Wednesday, November 4, there was still suspense (and dispute) around the result of the election in the country, with Joe Biden and Donald Trump fighting for small percentages in decision stations and facing (new) frustrations with the significant errors in the opinion polls. While the world observed the slow resolution of US politics, the discussion in Brazil about the presidential succession and its impacts for the Brazilian society maintained a fast pace on the social networks, with a clear polarization between the pro-Trump and pro-Biden groups (or those simply rejecting Trump).

A survey by the Department of Public Policy Analysis at FGV collected 1.3 million mentions in Portuguese on Twitter between 6 p.m. on Tuesday (03) and 1 p.m. on Wednesday (04) about the US election, categorizing the major videos on Youtube in Brazil about the political context in the country. On Twitter, Trump’s preferred digital platform, a consolidated group that supports the Brazilian federal government continued to comment on the presidential race, denouncing Biden (reproducing reports from the North-American media) and making accusations of ballot fraud due to slow vote counting in decision states – which was emphasized by Trump himself throughout the campaign, with no evidence. 

This group – which corresponds to only 15% of the profiles in the debate, but represents 32% of the interactions on the network about the topic – began Tuesday night in celebration due to the good results Trump obtained in important states where polls indicated a draw or even Biden’s advantage. The group commented on Florida in particular, which was won once again by the Republican candidate, and praised the “participation” of naturalized Brazilians in voting for the incumbent president. However, with the start of the counting of early votes and the reduction of Trump’s victory margin in the electoral college, the group began reproducing the Republican position regarding the interruption of the count, questioning the legitimacy of the remaining ballots.

Map of interactions of the debate about the US election on Twitter
November 1st to 4, 2020 – 1.3 million posts

Source: Twitter | Elaborated by: FGV DAPP

Although a minority, this group is vocal against the two majority groups in Brazil which reject Trump from different perspectives. One of them has an undefined partisan alignment and is mobilized by digital influencers such as Felipe Neto, representing 28% of the profiles but only 24% of the interactions. In addition to opposing the Republicans, the profiles in the group used memes and jokes to comment about the slow vote counting in the USA and the country’s political system (in which the presidential election is not decided by the national vote, but by the electoral college in the states). They also made positive comparisons to the electoral system in Brazil, which is 100% digital and able to count votes fast, and to the Brazilian opinion polls, due to the almost absolute consensus in the USA media that Biden had a very safe advantage against Trump.

Another group with a very diverse political and partisan alignment and including left-wing and center politicians and actors, as well as the media, represented the largest part of the profiles and interactions, 40% and 36% respectively. The group even had the contribution of the account of former congressman Eduardo Cunha, whose posts from 2011 with negative comments about the United States politics were reproduced jokingly. Attentions were turned to the current moment of vote by vote counting in Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and Michigan, the decision states of the “rust belt” which gave Trump his victory in 2016.

However, one aspect is common to both “anti-Trump” groups in the general interpretation of the map of interactions: the lack of big influencers and political leaders engaging the discussion. With partisan figures absent in the engagement about the race in the United States, which also happens in the pro-Trump group, the debate continued to revolve around the mystery regarding the results, with a small propositional debate about the impact of Biden’s victory (or Trump’s re-election) for the Brazilian foreign policy. One exception was the potential sanctions against the Brazilian government regarding the forest fires in the Amazon and Pantanal in case of a Democrat win. Sparse groups formed mostly by young people and digital activists argued that Biden is the best alternative for realigning the environmental policies in Brazil due to the international pressure to fight deforestation.   

On Youtube, pro-Trump conservative group predominates and questions fraud

While on Twitter the right-wing group supporting Trump is a minority, on Youtube, channels aligned with the federal government and of conservative orientation were widely predominant in terms of reach and views about the electoral race in the United States. By a large margin, the most important video about the subject came from the pro-federal government channel “Terça Livre TV”, which expressed explicit support for Trump, questioned Biden’s alleged “socialism” and replicated accusations without evidence about ballot fraud. Two videos out of the 15 most viewed came from that channel, while another four videos on the list came from platforms that equally support the federal government of Brazil.

Aside from other media channels of conservative alignment, only two exceptions were videos from news sources without clear endorsement of any of the candidates: a video by CNN Brasil, the second most viewed, and the real-time monitoring of the channel TV Bandeirantes. As expected, almost all the videos emphasized the vote count. However, with a greater impact than in the fragmented Twitter debate, right-wing channels not only speculated about the validity of the result, but also pointed to the consequences of a potential Biden victory as negative for Brazil and for the international realignment between Brazilians and Americans. The environmental agenda was also discussed in the channels, criticizing Bidens comments on the preservation of biomes in Brazil and defending the Brazilian governments national sovereignty over the territory. The main opinion focus of this right-wing group was the hypothesis that, with a Democratic win, the Amazon will eventually become an international regionmanaged by foreign groups and interests.

Youtube major videos about the US election in Brazil
November 1st to 4, 2020

Elaborated by: FGV DAPP