14 Oct

Religion stands out in the electoral debate after President Bolsonaro’s visit to the Basilica of Aparecida

Updated 20 de October, 2022 at 4:44 pm

  • The behavior shown by the president’s supporters during the celebrations of the Patroness of Brazil led to criticism from progressive sectors, causing the topic to surpass the discussion on security and end the week with the highest volume of mentions in the electoral debate;
  • Statements made by the Senator-elect Damares Alves also prompted the debate on pedophilia, with a predominance of messages favorable to Bolsonaro’s former minister;

The moral debate and the fake news dispute continue to dominate the second round of the 2022 presidential elections. During the second week of dispute, mentions to religion between October 7 and 13 grew from 100 thousand to 400 thousand, surpassing mentions to security, the dominating topic in the first round of the race. Content about pedophilia also had a significant increase, from 2.8 thousand mentions to 76 thousand at the end of the week.

In religion, the major topic in the past few days, the progressive field was predominant and mobilized the recent episode at the Basilica of Aparecida to criticize the behavior of Bolsonaro supporters. The president’s support group, which is strongly associated with Christianity, was seen as incoherent after attacking clerics and employees of TV Aparecida. The mobilization of the progressive field could be understood as a strategy to separate Bolsonaro from the catholic and evangelical electorate. In pedophilia, Bolsonaro’s support group mobilized against the request to suspend the mandate of Damares Alves based on a narrative that associated the left wing with a favorable stance regarding sexual abuse of minors. The supporters of President Bolsoanro also published information associating Lula with pedophilia with no evidence.


Growing topics related to the elections on Twitter
Period: October 7 to 13

Source: Twitter | Elaborated by: School of Communication, Media and Information at FGV


  • The debate about religion surpassed the mentions related to security and had the highest peak in the week in the debate about the elections. The increase in content about the topic is related to President Jair Bolsonaro’s visit to the Basilica of Aparecida to celebrate the Patroness of Brazil. The behavior shown by the president’s supporters and the archbishop’s sermon (which was booed by Bolsonaro’s supporters) had negative repercussions for the president;
  • Although it had a lower volume than religion, the debate about security also stood out, especially due to Bolsonaro’s supporters circulating a photo of former president Lula visiting the Complexo do Alemão wearing a “CPX” hat, stating that the acronym is related to the Comando Vermelho and that Lula campaigned in that region because he has relationships with crime. The debate was inflated by Bolsonaro supporters sharing the image and by Lula’s supporters denying the claims;
  • By the end of the week, pedophilia was among the five topics with the highest volume of mentions after former minister Damares Alves gave details on an alleged child abuse scheme at the Marajó Island for an audience with children. The case prompted requests to investigate the Senator-elect, but also mobilized her supporters, who showed news to corroborate the case told by Damares and stated it was unfair to criticize her for pedophilia. There was also an effort to associate former president Lula with cases of pedophilia, as well as content stating that “Lula raped a teenager when he was imprisoned in 1980”;


Association between presidential candidates and mentions to religion on Twitter
Period: October 7 to 13


Source: Twitter | Elaborated by: School of Communication, Media and Information at FGV


  • Comparing the mentions to the two presidential candidates in the debate about religion, we can see a large distance in terms of volume starting from the October 12 holiday, when President Bolsonaro visited the Basilica of Aparecida;
  • In addition to criticizing the behavior of his supporters at the Basilica and towards the archbishop, progressive users also highlighted the archbishop’s sermon, in which he stated that the church is not the place to ask for votes. The critics claimed that President Bolsonaro was never on the same side as the Catholic Church, and that his behavior is not compatible with that of a Christian;
  • Among the associations between former president Lula and the debate about religion, the highlights were candidate’s supporters stating that Catholics vote for Lula and that he is the candidate who respects all religions. There were also users denying the information that Lula might close churches, while other users associated the PT candidate with Satanism and claimed he does not care for Christians;


Word cloud with terms associated the most with religion on Twitter
Period: October 7 to 13

Source: Twitter | Elaborated by: School of Communication, Media and Information at FGV


  • After the controversies during a religious event in front of the Basilica of Aparecida, a series of criticisms were directed at Bolsonaro and at his supporters in particular. Users were of the opinion that the president’s supporters behaved in a very incoherent way with that of the Christian doctrine. The highlights in these critical comments were the alcoholic beverages brought to the temple, the boos directed at the priest who talked about hunger, and the aggressions against employees of TV Aparecida;
  • This prompted a movement to state that “Catholics do not vote for Jair”. However, this mobilization happened only among those opposing the president, who used the episode to criticize his support group, seeking to “tear off the mask of the false messiah”. These comments had a tone of indignation, with users unable to understand how religious people could support Bolsonaro;
  • The president’s opponent also made comparisons between the episode and the claim that Lula might close churches if elected. This indicates an intention to approximate the PT candidate to the topic of religion, denying the false information while simultaneously presenting Bolsonaro as a “false Christian”;
  • This recent episode also prompted the progressive field to participate more of the religious debate on Twitter. Usually driven by criticism of Lula and by the idea that the PT is an enemy of Christians, the discussion acquired a new tone, with comments inverting the narratives and claiming that “supporting Bolsonaro is not what God would want”.

Word cloud with terms associated the most with pedophilia on Twitter
Period: October 7 to 13

Source: Twitter | Elaborated by: School of Communication, Media and Information at FGV


  • The pro-Bolsonaro group mobilized the request to suspend the mandate of the Senator-elect Damares Alves against the progressive field, based on the argument that the left is allegedly favorable to pedophilia a/or inclined to relativize it;
  • Three tweets made by majors actors supporting Bolsonaro went viral and became central in the debate, contributing to the incorporation of this narrative on the networks;
  • The first one was made by President Jair Bolsonaro, who associated the release of an actor accused of rape of a vulnerable person on Children’s Day to the “attacks” targeting Damares in the form of a petition calling for the suspension of her mandate, which was endorsed by media personalities and artists;
  • Less than 15 minutes later, another tweet went viral, in which the congressman Eduardo Bolsonaro suggested that the left wing would be interested in suspending a senator that would fight against pedophilia;
  • A few hours later, Damares expanded the narrative with another viral tweet: in addition to the left wing itself, actors, TV presenters and employees associated with Rede Globo were allegedly in favor of pedophilia and organized crime, because she would be an important agent in the fight against child abuse, and some of them, such as Xuxa, were favorable to her suspension;
    In the progressive field, the highlight was a tweet in which Ana Estela Haddad demanded an explanation of Damares for hiding reports of sexual abuse of children, if there is proof, and stated that it would be problematic if the former minister were lying about the topic for electoral reasons.