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31 Jan

Support for Arthur Lira predominates on social networks; group supporting Baleia Rossi mobilizes vaccination topic

Updated 8 de February, 2021 at 4:46 pm

  • The group opposing Lira based their discussion on criticizing the federal government, but did not have consistent coordination or engagement;
  • Debate about the election for president of the Chamber of Deputies dominated engagement compared to the race at the Senate;
  • Base of congressmen supporting Baleia Rossi showed more cohesion regarding the importance of vaccination; Lira’s allies are divided among those criticizing and those celebrating the advances in vaccine development.

The elections for president of the Chamber of Deputies and of the Federal Senate, for which voting is scheduled for February 1st, mobilized around 203.6 thousand posts on Twitter between January 20 and 26 according to a survey by the Department of Public Policy Analysis of Fundação Getulio Vargas (FGV DAPP). Evolution of the debate about the Congress elections on Twitter.

Evolution of mentions to the Congress elections on Twitter
Period: January 20 to 26

Source: Twitter | Elaborated by: FGV DAPP

The debate gained strength as the election day approached, reaching e peak of almost 29.9 thousand mentions on Monday (25) in the afternoon, the moment in which a campaign was intensified for voting to be open at the boards. The major indexer of the debate was the hashtag #votosecretonao (no secret voting), which appeared in 10.9 thousand tweets throughout the period.

In addition to open voting, another central topic in the debate was the alignment or disagreement of candidates with the federal government, particularly in the case of the candidates for President of the Chamber – federal congressman Baleia Rossi (MDB-SP) and Arthur Lira (PP-AL). The debate about the race was centered around the impact and possibilities of the reelection of Jair Bolsonaro (no party) in the next presidential elections in 2022.

Evolution of the interactions about the Congress elections on Twitter
Period: January 20 to 26

Source: Twitter | Elaborated by: FGV DAPP

Blue – 64.37% of profiles | 74.97% of interactions
This group had the highest levels of cohesion and engagement in the debate and was dominated by profiles of conservative politicians aligned with the federal government, campaigning for Arthur Lira (PP-AL), whose election could secure, according to some posts, the advancement of important reforms at the Chamber of Deputies, while attacking his main adversary in the race, Baleia Rossi (MDB-SP). The major accusations against Rossi included the allegation that his election would continue the administration of the current president of the house, Rodrigo Maia (DEM-RJ), which was badly evaluated by the profiles, and that Rossi’s defeat was Maia’s defeat, meaning a victory for the country. The profiles also mentioned recent statements made by the former congressman Eduardo Cunha (MDB-RJ) regarding associations between Rossi and Maia that could compromise the suitability of Rossi’s candidacy. In addition, after the PSL officially adhered to Lira’s candidacy, the profiles of political leaders were confident in having the support of most of the congressman in the vote.

Yellow – 23.15% of profiles | 19.37% of interactions
A very heterogeneous group that included channels of traditional media outlets, journalists and right-wing and center politicians, who did not directly support Baleia Rossi for President of the Chamber, focusing on criticizing Arthur Lira’s political history. The posts claimed that Lira was allegedly aligned with politicians who supported the closure of the National Congress and of the Supreme Court (STF), had supposedly supported a tax similar to the Provisional Contribution on Financial Transactions (CPMF), and had opposed the Emergency Aid during the quarantine in the context of the novel coronavirus pandemic. This part of the debate also had a strong repercussion of the presence of federal congresswoman Flordelis (PSD-RJ), who is being investigated for murdering her husband, in an event to support Arthur Lira. Although the yellow group included distinct and heterogeneous profiles, they presented opinions that do not clearly classify the group as opposition to the federal government; however, at the same time, it evidenced profiles that focus on central topics, such as governmental expenses on food items, impeachment requests, and governmental decisions in the context of the fight against Covid-19.

IN THE VACCINATION DEBATE, ROSSI’S GROUP WAS COHESIVE, BUT LIRA ENGAGED MORE SUPPORT

Considering urgent issues stemming from the pandemic and the fact that the future president of the Chamber will be responsible for prioritizing and articulating the voting for bills, the vaccine against Covid-19 was a central topic of dispute among the political fields. In the period from June 1st, 2020 until January 27, 2021, we registered 9.2 thousand posts made by congressmen who engaged on the topic on Facebook, for a total of 33 million interactions.

From this database, we grouped posts made by congressmen according to their party’s vote recommendation in the election for the presidency of the Chamber of Deputies. Baleia Rossi’s support group was more engaged regarding this topic on Facebook, with 5.1 thousand publications, while Arthur Lira’s group had 3.3 thousand. However, in terms of engagement, there is a large difference favoring those supporting Arthur Lira, who garnered 21.6 million interactions, while congressmen in parties supporting Rossi garnered only 7.9 million.

Posts and total engagement about the vaccine in Baleia Rossi’s support group
Analysis period: June 1st, 2020 to January 27, 2021

Source: Facebook | Elaborated by: FGV DAPP

In the group of congressmen who declared their support for Baleia Rossi’s candidacy for the Presidency of the Chamber, the profiles of Erika Kokay (PT-DF), Jandira Feghali (PCdoB-RJ), Ricardo Silva (PSB-SP), Gleisi Hoffmann (PT-PR) and Alencar Santana Braga (PT-SP) stood out in terms of engagement with their posts. In the period between June and October 2020, the major topics demanded by the group included mostly the maintenance of the Emergency Aid to minimize the effects of the pandemic, as well as the urgency to approve a vaccine against Covid-19 and for the federal government to plan the purchase of the materials needed to immunize the population. In efforts to pressure the Brazilian governments, some posts made references to the advances of preparations in other countries. Starting from October 2020, the debate became focused on indicating the supposed causes of the delay in approving a vaccine and starting the vaccination against Covid-19, such as diplomatic friction between Brazil and countries that were preparing the vaccines, as well as the federal government’s prioritization of investments on “early treatment” with no scientific evidence.

Posts and total engagement about the vaccine in Arthur Lira’s support group
Analysis period: June 1st, 2020 to January 27, 2021

Source: Facebook | Elaborated by: FGV DAPP

The group of representatives in parties supporting Lira’s candidacy indicates a rupture between the two groups that presented very different behaviors and activities. The first group is composed of congressmen who commented on news stories about the progress of research on vaccines and pointed out the importance of the vaccination campaign for the recovery of the country’s economy. This group was formed by congressman from parties such as PSD, PP and PL, and their behavior regarding this topic was generally discreet and reactive, with the exception of some congresmen that are more aligned with the government, such as Delegate Éder Mauro (PSD-PA) and Captain Derrite (PP-SP).

In turn, the second group was formed mostly by PSL representatives and, to a lesser extent, representatives of Republicanos, PSC and Avante. This group presented a very intense level of activity and was organized around four large narratives over the period analyzed. Between June and October, the most engaged publications criticized the maintenance of social isolation, pointing out that the chances of a vaccination campaign were distant. During this period, the agreement between the federal government, the University of Oxford and the Astrazeneca laboratory was signed. The peak in the week of October 19 happened in the context of the debate about mandatory vaccination, reflecting a public debate between Dória and Bolsonaro on the topic. The last weeks of December registered another relevant peak with posts criticizing the controversy surrounding the effectiveness of the Butantan Institute’s vaccine. Lastly, in January, the highlights were publications that sought to generate distrust about the efficacy and effects of the Butantan Institute vaccine. Another relevant point in the posts in that period were the publications accusing the governor of São Paulo, João Doria (PSDB), of making political use of vaccination. The congressman and candidate for the presidency of the Chamber André Janones (Avante-MG) generated a significant level of engagement, which is unique among the presidential candidates with a relevant presence on Facebook that drove the debate about the vaccine. The congressman’s live broadcast talking about the vaccine and emergency aid was the post with the highest number of interactions.

Word cloud: Facebook posts made by pro-Lira representatives

*Congressmen from parties that declared support for Lira are divided into two groups: 1. one celebrating the advances of vaccination; and 2. another one criticizing measures such as social distancing.

Source: Facebook | Elaborated by: FGV DAPP

Word cloud: Facebook posts made by pro-Rossi representatives

*Congressmen from parties that declared support for Rossi used the topic of vaccination to criticize the government and Lira’s allies, accusing the adversaries of being “against the vaccine”.

Source: Facebook | Elaborated by: FGV DAPP

FINAL REMARKS

The semantic field that composes the Facebook posts of representatives who support Lira’s candidacy is aimed at the federal government and its bodies (the ministry, anvisa), indicating a discourse of unification and cooperation with the government, but without mentioning Bolsonaro very frequently, which may be linked to a strategy used by representatives not to associate themselves so directly with the figure of the president regarding this topic. On the other hand, the group supporting the candidate Baleia Rossi used the president’s name often, but with a different strategy of opposintg and detaching themselves, with more negative and direct terms (against, #forabolsonaro – out Bolsonaro).

The election for president of the Chamber of Deputies, marked by two main candidacies of center-right representatives, engaged the entire ideological spectrum on the networks, with an evident focus on alignment or disagreement with the federal government. On Twitter, the performance of profiles allied to the federal government in defense of Lira stood out In addition, the strategies of supporters of both Baleia Rossi and Arthur Lira were driven by attacks. Rossi’s supporters criticized Lira’s “anti-democratic” alignment and his stance against the Emergency Aid; pro-Lira profiles attacked Rodrigo Maia’s administration and a possible blockade of important reforms under Rossi’s command. On Facebook, representatives and the legislative agenda around the guidelines for fighting Covid-19 had a strong performance in Rossi’s support group; however, Lira’s support group showed significantly higher engagement.

Although the support for the candidates was guided by the position of the representatives regarding to the federal government, there was no organized and relevant opposition front in terms of engagement in the social networks analyzed. This dismantling of the opposition to the federal government can go beyond institutional procedures and help predict the electoral arena in 2022.