17 Nov

São Paulo and suspicions of fraud dictate the direction of the debate about the first round of the municipal elections on Twitter

Updated 7 de December, 2020 at 11:23 am

There were approximately 643.9 thousand mentions to the municipal elections in Brazil on Twitter between 5 p.m. on November 15 and midday on November 16. The debate gained momentum at 11 p.m. on Sunday (15), mobilizing 63.1 thousand posts a few hours after the voting ended and a technical problem was announced in the electronic vote counting system used by the Superior Electoral Court (TSE). On Monday (16) in the morning, an overview of the performance of left-wing candidates in the election prompted another peak with 31.4 mentions at 10 a.m.

Figure 1 – Evolution of the debate about the first round of the municipal elections on Twitter

Source: Twitter | Elaborated by FGV DAPP

The cities leading the debate were São Paulo (SP) and Brasília (DF), which were responsible for 96.6 thousand posts each (or 15% of the debate); they were followed by Rio de Janeiro (RJ), with 77.3 thousand tweets (12%), Belo Horizonte (MG) and Recife (PE), each representing 25.8 thousand posts (4%). The following map shows the regions whose posts obtained the most engagement.

Figure 2 – Heat map of the debate about the first round of the municipal elections on Twitter

Source: Twitter | Elaborated by FGV DAPP

Among the profiles that obtained a high level of engagement in this debate in terms of mentions, replies and shares, the highlights were the youtuber and digital influencer @felipeneto, the blogger and digital influencer @leandroruschel, the candidate for mayor of São Paulo @guilhermeboulos (PSOL-SP), the digital influencer @bslvra and the recently elected city councilor for Curitiba @caroldartora13 (PT-PR).

Major topics

The technical issue in the election system rekindled the debate about the possibility of fraud in the Brazilian electoral system, which has been circulating seasonally on the networks since the 2018 presidential elections, and became one of the major topics in this period, with 202.5 thousand mentions. Coming mostly from pro-Bolsonaro profiles, this part of the debate raised suspicions about the security of electronic voting machines, as well as the vote counting, and intensified the campaign for printed voting. Some of the major hashtags were #votoimpressojá (printed voting now), used in 27 thousands posts; #apuracaosecretaefraude (secret counting is fraud), in 11 thousand posts; and #fraudenaseleicoes (election fraud), in 9.6 thousand posts.

Figure 3 – Major topics of the debate about the first round of the municipal elections on Twitter

Source: Twitter | Elaborated by FGV DAPP

However, the leading agenda in the debate was the good performance of the candidate for mayor of São Paulo Guilherme Boulos (PSOL-SP), whose name was the subject of 221.2 thousand mentions on Twitter. Surprising many users – and feeding part of the suspicions about fraud in the elections –, Boulos’s placement in this first round rekindled the spirits of the left wing in São Paulo and was widely commented due to having defeated other candidates such as Celso Russomanno (Republicanos-SP) and Arthur Do Val (Patriota-SP).

The electoral race in Rio de Janeiro came somewhat into the spotlight on Twitter in the period analyzed. With a volume of 104.3 thousand mentions, this part of the debate found it hard to believe in the choice of the Rio de Janeiro population was to bring Eduardo Paes and Marcelo Crivella into the second round, considering the history both candidates have for alleged bad administration in the city hall of Rio. The presence of conservative candidates such as Carlos Bolsonaro (Republicanos-RJ) and Gabriel Monteiro (PSD-RJ) also prompted comments from a significant part of the users.

The result of the first round in São Paulo set up the stage for a debate about the performance of left-wing candidates in general, in several cities in Brazil, which represented around 118 thousand mentions. Although it was interpreted as a negative response to the advance of conservatism in Brazil, the significant victory of the left wing in the race led supporters of the federal government to question the legitimacy of the Brazilian electoral process.

There was also a great repercussion of the large number of candidates supported by or aligned with President Jair Bolsonaro (no party) who suffered electoral defeats. The poor performance of most of the pro-Bolsonaro candidates was the subject of 104 thousand posts and divided the debate, with some profiles celebrating the fact and others lamenting it. The topic also helped strengthen the fraud narrative inside the pro-Bolsonaro group. The highlights in this part of the debate were the hashtags #forabolsonaro (out Bolsonaro), #naoelejabolsominions (don’t reelect Bolsominions) and #voteembolsonarista (vote pro-Bolsonaro), which appeared in 1,900, 430 and 410 posts, respectively.

Lastly, another topic that drew the attention of the debate was the election of women, black people, and candidates from the LGBT+ community in several capitals – in some cases, with a significant amount of votes. Highlighting the importance of representativeness, the number of references to candidates linked to these groups reached 39.9 thousand.