19 Oct

Mentions to presidential candidates on Facebook consolidate social polarization between Lula and Bolsonaro and lack of a “third way”

Digital impact of presidential candidates

Updated 25 de October, 2021 at 10:47 am

  • The support group centered around the current president has more profiles and interactions, but the group supporting the PT candidate shows strength on Facebook;
  • Ciro Gomes and Marina Silva are on the background inside the group opposing the government and positioned away from Lula;
  • Among center-right candidates, only Luiz Henrique Mandetta has been able to compose a group with more than 1% of profiles. João Doria and Eduardo Leite orbit inside small groups at the center of the debate;
  • The major links indicate an isolation of domains favoring either Bolsonaro or Lula.

With less than a year to go for the 2022 elections, the debate about potential presidential candidates on Facebook has consolidated the polarization between former president Lula and current president Jair Bolsonaro. This context was identified through the collection of mentions to Jair Bolsonaro (no party), Lula (PT), Ciro Gomes (PDT), João Doria (PSDB), Marina Silva (REDE), Eduardo Leite (PSDB), and Luiz Henrique Mandetta (DEM), who account together for 450 thousand posts published in more than 30 thousand public pages and groups on Facebook between September 1st and 30th, 2021.

The monitoring of mentions and groups formed around the candidates on Facebook is one of the indicators to measure the social and communicative resources available for candidacies, contributing to a wider and more integrated view of the scenario for 2022. The development of groups indicates a higher capacity to mobilize the public, which is an essential asset in the process of forming electoral preferences.

The data collection of the debate about the presidential candidates in public pages and groups on Facebook includes different audiences and dynamics than those observed in other platforms, such as Twitter and WhatsApp.

Evolution of mentions to presidential candidates on Facebook
Analysis period: September 1st to 30th, 2021

Source: Facebook

The debate stayed between 10 and 15 thousand mentions per day, with three more significant peaks. The moment with the highest number of mentions to presidential candidates happened on September 7, the day of the government-promoted demonstrations. September 9 also showed a high number of mentions prompted by the tensions around the potential truck drivers’ strike movement and by the publication of a note in which Bolsonaro signaled a retreat regarding the September 7 demonstrations. Lastly, the peak on September 21 happened due to the speech given by Bolsonaro at the United Nations General Assembly.

The map of interactions below expands the understanding of the groups formed around potential presidential candidates in Brazil for 2022. The polarized distribution is similar to the patterns observed in 2018, with the development of dense groups around the candidacies of Lula and Bolsonaro. It is also interesting to note that candidates of the so-called “third way” are indeed aligned with the center of the graph, but are not able to form their own groups.

Ciro Gomes and Marina Silva are on the background inside the group opposing the government (which is dominated by Lula). The pre-candidates for PSDB, João Doria and Eduardo Leite, are not part of any of the major groups that developed. However, they have detached themselves from the main group and formed smaller support groups. The former minister of Health, Luiz Henrique Mandetta, is the only actor in the center-right who was able to integrate the group formed by social organizations opposing the government and the left wing, such as Vem Pra Rua.

Map of interactions in mentions to presidential candidates on Facebook
Analysis period: September 1st to 30th, 2021

Source: Facebook

Blue ‒ 44.86% of profiles | 55.52% of interactions
Group formed by pages and groups aligned with the federal government. This group represented more than half the interactions in this period and its main influencers were actors of institutional politics, such as President Jair Bolsonaro and the congresswomen Bia Kicis (PSL-DF) and Carla Zambelli (PSL-SP). The protests on September 7 were the topic of the main publications in the group, which also engaged in posts criticizing the Covid Inquiry, its members and activities.

Red ‒ 31.78% of profiles | 35.15% of interactions
Group formed by pages and groups opposing the federal government. This group includes pages and groups of left-wing political orientation and predominantly associated with the candidacy of the former president Lula. Other center-left potential candidates such as Marina Silva and Ciro Gomes are also inside this network, although they are positioned further away from the more dense part of the group. Unlike the group supporting the federal government, this group sees the predominance of pages and groups owned by social organizations and not actors of institutional politics. One highlight in this group is the higher level of fragmentation of the influence exerted by different politicians among the most shared posts, with the presence of publications in the pages of Lula, Marcelo Freixo (PSOL-RJ), Jandira Feghali (PCdoB-RJ), Gleisi Hoffmann (PT-PR), Carlos Zarattini (PT- SP), and others

Orange ‒ 1.01% of profiles | 3.38% of interactions
A small group formed by pages and groups associated with the center-right, centered around the organization “Vem Pra Rua” and its page. The highlights were posts with calls to action and stories about demonstrations on September 12 by political forces seeking to consolidate a third way candidacy. The former minister of Health, Luiz Henrique Mandetta, was one of the only center-right potential candidates monitored in this analysis to integrate the group.

Links with the most engagement in the debate about presidential candidates on Facebook
Analysis period: September 1st to 30th, 2021

Source: Facebook

Among the links with the most engagement (the sum of likes, shares, comments, and reactions) on Facebook mentioning the potential candidates, three were posted by the pro-government portal Jornal da Cidade Online, two by the official website of former president Lula, and five by the traditional press. The link with the highest volume of engagement praised a leader of the truck drivers movement who opposed the Supreme Court minister Alexandre de Moraes a few days before the demonstrations on September 7. The second link in number of interactions also referred to the September 7 demonstrations, but talked about a statement made by governor João Doria, who positioned himself for the first time as favorable to the president’s impeachment. Three of the main links mentioned voting intention pools for the 2022 presidential elections, highlighting Lula’s advantage over Bolsonaro. Links favoring the federal government came from the domain of the Jornal da Cidade Online.