08 Jul

Pro-Lula and pro-Bolsonaro groups on Whatsapp are marked by attacks against the opposition

Updated 18 de July, 2022 at 11:08 am

  • The major topics in groups supporting either candidate were criticism and attacks against opponents;
  • While support groups for President Bolsonaro focused on sharing positive results from the federal government, Lula’s supporters talked about the former president’s role in ending hunger and his leadership in the election polls;
  • In June, pro-Lula groups accounted for 65,400 messages, while pro-Bolsonaro groups accounted for 58,100 messages.

As the 2022 electoral campaign approaches, WhatsApp remains a platform for the circulation of political attacks and negative propaganda against opponents. That was shown by a survey carried out by the Department of Public Policy Analysis at Fundação Getulio Vargas (FGV DAPP), which collected more than 123 thousand messages published in 20 public WhatsApp groups (10 supporting Bolsonaro and 10 supporting Lula) between June 1 and 30. We selected the 10 groups supporting each pre-candidate that received the most messages in the period. In June, the monitoring of public WhatsApp groups by FGV DAPP had a universe of 172 groups, which published more than 658 thousand messages.

The in-depth analysis of the publications of the ten groups with the most activity supporting the two major pre-candidates for the presidency allowed the identification of trends and discourses circulating in closed environments, without the possibility of moderation or surveillance that is present in the digital public debate on platforms such as Twitter and Facebook. The WhatsApp group ecosystem is varied and includes groups for political debate, regional news, exchange of political information, and supporting or criticizing certain candidates. For this research, we selected groups supporting Lula or Bolsonaro. We did not include groups whose name or description only criticizes or rejects one of the two pre-candidates.

Lula and Bolsonaro were selected not only because they are the presidential candidates who lead the polls, but also because they have the most active groups. As it is not possible to access the total universe of public groups on WhatsApp, the sample of groups is not statistically representative. Therefore, the analyzes developed sought to identify the main discursive trends that may emerge within these spaces. This is the first report about the monitoring of the political-electoral debate in mobile apps published by FGV DAPP in 2022.


Evolution of messages in the groups supporting Bolsonaro and Lula
Period: June 1 to 30

Source: Whatsapp | Elaborated by: FGV DAPP


  • Support groups for President Jair Bolsonaro had a volume of 58,100 messages during the period. On June 6, there were 8,671 messages, most of which came from a single group. The messages that circulated the most associated the presidential candidate Lula and the Judiciary Branch with corruption;
  • The second peak of pro-Bolsonaro groups, on June 29, reached 6,400 messages. The highlight on that day was a group that posted messages defending the printed vote and denying criticism associated with the president;
  • Support groups for former president Lula had 65,400 messages in June. The first peak, on June 4, reached 4,661 messages. The most active group on that day criticized Bolsonaro’s economic and social measures;
  • The second peak of activity in the pro-Lula group happened on June 16 and reached 6,056 messages, mostly coming from a single group In this group, the messages criticized President Bolsonaro, but there was also criticism of former President Lula, indicating the presence of people opposing him in the group.


Major news links in groups supporting Bolsonaro
Period: June 1 to 30

Source: Whatsapp | Elaborated by: FGV DAPP


  • The most shared links in support groups for President Bolsonaro came mostly from pro-Bolsonaro news portals, such as “Folha da Política” and “Rede Brasil News”. The news touched with various topics associated with the federal government and criticism of the PT and other opposition parties. Other highlights were links to polls on voting intentions and the choice of vice president for Bolsonaro’s ticket;
  • Most of the content circulated in more than one group, but was shared by a small number of users, which indicates a strategy of disseminating links in groups. The exception were links about the reduction in fuel prices, the Central Bank profit and an online poll, which had a high volume of circulation in groups and many users sending the messages;
  • The highlights were links about the Abreu e Lima refinery, which was suspected of corruption during the Operation Car Wash and is associated with the parties opposing the government. Another highlight was the circulation of links for Sebrae’s professional training courses and loans for micro-entrepreneurs, indicating interests of the group’s users beyond the political debate;
  • There was also a news story linking the cases of monkeypox in the United Kingdom to the sexual orientation of the infected.


Major news links in groups supporting Lula
Period: June 1 to 30

Source: Whatsapp | Elaborated by: FGV DAPP


  • The major news shared by Lula’s support groups included alternative media vehicles such as “Extra Classe”, “Nova Iguaçu 24h”, and “Poder ao povo”. The low number of users who shared these links suggests that they are not associated with how viral the news were, but with the intentional action of disseminating links for the websites;
  • The topics included concern about Brazil’s return to the hunger map. Lula’s advantage in electoral polls was also the subject of the seventh most shared link;
  • Negative posts about Bolsonaro were found in the fifth and eighth links. The sixth link, published by the Nova Iguaçu 24h website, had negative content regarding Lula;
  • Lastly, there was a Facebook video published by the page “Time Ciro Gomes”.


Major YouTube links in groups supporting Bolsonaro
Period: June 1 to 30

Source: Whatsapp | Elaborated by: FGV DAPP


  • The most shared YouTube videos in Bolsonaro support groups had a high volume of views on the video platform. Seven of the ten most shared videos reached at least 150,000 views. The highlights were the videos published by the channels Te atualizei (837.9 thousand views), Programa 4 por 4 (655.3 thousand views), and Gustavo Gayer (553.4 thousand views);
  • It is also important to note that the only three videos that did not reach a high volume of views on YouTube were published by the same channel (NOTÍCIAS BRASIL PATRIOTA) and shared by only one user. These characteristics indicate that a high volume of sharing is related to a channel promotion strategy and not to how viral the videos are;
  • There was a high prevalence of attacks on PT and its pre-candidate for the presidency, Lula. Two specific episodes stood out: 1) a statement by Lula about the alleged ostentation of the Brazilian middle class, and 2) videos seeking to explore the alleged relationships between PT and the criminal faction PCC.


Major YouTube links in groups supporting Lula
Period: June 1 to 30

Source: Whatsapp | Elaborated by: FGV DAPP


  • The most shared YouTube videos in support groups associated with former president Lula did not have a high volume of views on the video platform in general. Six out of the ten top videos had less than 10,000 views;
  • The most shared video was a documentary produced by TV 247 questioning the veracity of the knife attack suffered by Bolsonaro during the 2018 campaign. The video was published at the end of 2021, but it continues to be shared in 4 of the 10 groups monitored;
  • Another highlight was the youtuber Aquias Santarem, who had two videos among the 10 most shared. The videos in the channel of Aquias Santarem were published in four of the ten groups monitored by five different users. On a platform dominated by influencers who support Bolsonaro, that channel emerged as one of the few criticizing Bolsonaro to achieve a high volume of views, with 108,000 and 61,300 views in each of the videos;
  • Another highlight was the presence of a video about Ciro Gomes’ statements against the military. The material was shared by two users in six of the ten groups, suggesting an agenda in which the convergence between the PDT candidate and Lula’s supporters is possible.