15 Jun

Whose fault is it? Issues and their culprits in economic topics in tweets by presidential candidates

Updated 23 de June, 2022 at 3:21 pm

  • The debate about fuel and energy was the main issue mentioned in posts made by presidential candidates, followed by employment, poverty and hunger;
  • Jair Bolsonaro and the Federal Government were blamed in 43.4% of the posts attributing a specific culprit; Paulo Guedes was mentioned in only 5%;
  • In 62.6% of the posts, the issues were addressed vaguely without specifying a culprit; Bolsonaro was the presidential candidate who blamed others the most, while Lula blamed others the least in posts about economic issues;
  • Bolsonaro focused on posting about positive measures about the economy and made the least posts about issues, blaming the Covid lockdown in 50% of his mentions;
  • When blaming others, Lula blamed Bolsonaro and the government the most; in turn, Ciro Gomes blamed Lula and Bolsonaro in equal proportion;
  • Simone Tebet is involved in issues at the Senate and targeted the Federal Government and the Petrobras management.

The debate about fuel and energy was the main issue mentioned in posts made by presidential candidates about the economy, with more than 30% of the mentions. Those were the findings of a survey by the Department of Public Policy Analysis at Fundação Getulio Vargas (FGV DAPP), which identified more than 974 tweets posted in the official profiles of presidential candidates Jair Bolsonaro (PL), Lula (PT), Ciro Gomes (PDT), and Simone Tebet (MDB) on Twitter between March 1 and May 31.

When talking about problematic areas, President Jair Bolsonaro blamed others the most for the country’s economic issues. Given his position in the Federal Government while running for reelection, the exaltation of his administration’s achievements and the blaming of others for issues could be considered strategic, since not attributing blame is likely to damage his own government.

In turn, Lula follows a different strategy. He is the presidential candidate speaking the most about economic issues and, at the same time, directly blaming others the least. The former president focused on posts about fuel, employment and poverty, topics in which he can articulate his criticism with reminders of statistics from his administration.

Ciro Gomes has continued the attempt the establish himself as the major name in the third way, blaming Lula and Bolsonaro for the economy in the same proportion. He addressed the topics of fuel and energy in 45.4% of his mentions to economic issues on Twitter.

Simone Tebet, in turn, has a much lower volume of posts. The publications made by the MDB candidate were marked by her participation at the Senate, with mentions to specific debates in the parliament and criticism of the Petrobras management.

Major economic issues in posts made by presidential candidates
Period: March 1 to May 31

Source: Twitter | Elaborated by: FGV DAPP

Main culprits of economic issues in posts made by presidential candidates
Period: March 1 to May 31

Source: Twitter | Elaborated by: FGV DAPP

Posts about the economy and economic issues among presidential candidates
Period: March 1 to May 31

Source: Twitter | Elaborated by: FGV DAPP

  • Ciro Gomes made the most tweets in this period. However, Lula spoke the most about the economy and economic issues. With 43.6% of the publications about the economy, 78% of which mentioned economic issues, it is clear that Lula’s strategy is to shine light on these issues in the electoral debate;
  • President Jair Bolsonaro makes the least mentions to issues when talking about economic topics, focusing on exalting his administration’s economic measures and good statistics. The three major opposition candidates had a high percentage of criticism in their publications about the economy, ranging from 66.6% and 78%.
  • The low frequency of mentions to economic issues by Bolsonaro is associated with the large amount of publications highlighting government measures to promote economic development. In fact, 75% of the mentions to the economy in Bolsonaro’s profile focused on solutions and measures, seeking to defend the legacy of his administration.
  • The candidate Simone Tebet has a low frequency of posts on the platform, which is also true for posts related to economic topics.

Issues and culprits in posts about the economy made by Jair Bolsonaro
Period: March 1 to May 31

Source: Twitter | Elaborated by: FGV DAPP

  • Bolsonaro blames others the most about economic issues he mentions in his profile on Twitter;
  • The main economic issues mentioned by President Jair Bolsonaro are related to the increase in fuel prices and unemployment in the country. The president also mentions the economic crisis in general, referring to the increase in the cost of living and economic indicators in general;
  • When talking about the increase in fuel prices, the president blames the Petrobras management, criticizing the increases in gasoline and diesel prices. The war in Ukraine is also blamed when the president mentions fertilizers;
  • The president also blamed the Covid lockdown for the economic crisis, inflation and issues related to employment, talking about the “stay at home folks” to refer to people who defended social distancing in the beginning of the pandemic.
  • The state governors were also blamed together with the “stay at home folks” and the left wing.

Issues and culprits in posts about the economy made by Lula
Period: March 1 to May 31

Source: Twitter | Elaborated by: FGV DAPP

  • Former president Lula made the most publications about economic issues both in relative and absolute terms. However, the candidate did not blame anyone directly in 77.6% of his tweets.
  • Employment, poverty, hunter, fuels and energy were the main issues mentioned by the former president, representing 81.1% of this publications;
  • The main issues indicated by Lula were usually followed by mentions to statistics and programs during his administration;
  • Regarding employment, there was a high volume of posts about not only unemployment, but also the precariousness of work, with criticism of the labor legislation approved after the impeachment of Dilma Rousseff. Paulo Guedes was mentioned in only one tweet about the precariousness of work.
  • Lula blamed Jair Bolsonaro and the Federal Government mostly in association with the issues of fuel and energy.

Issues and culprits in posts about the economy made by Ciro Gomes
Period: March 1 to May 31

Source: Twitter | Elaborated by: FGV DAPP

  • Ciro Gomes is the second candidate in terms of publications about economic issues, behind Lula. However, while Lula does not attribute a specific culprit in 77.6% of his tweets, Ciro adopts a more direct tone in only 56.6% of his posts;
  • In posts where he blamed someone, Ciro equally blamed Lula and Bolsonaro as the major culprits for the country’s economic issues, with 19 mentions to each;
  • He blamed Lula for seven issues (fuels, economic crisis, reforms, financial system, employment, inflation, and debt), with an equal distribution for each, and Bolsonaro for six issues (fuels, economic crisis, reforms, employment, inflation and debt), with a large concentration of mentions related to fuels and energy.
  • Paulo Guedes was blamed in six tweets, also largely associated with fuels and energy.

Issues and culprits in posts about the economy made by Simone Tebet
Period: March 1 to May 31

Source: Twitter | Elaborated by: FGV DAPP

  • The presidential candidate Simone Tebet posted topics related to fuel and energy and the increase in inflation in her publications related to economic issues. On the topic of fuel, the senator criticized the federal government and the Petrobras management, mentioning the land property the company donated for a fertilizer factory when she was mayor, whose works were never concluded;
  • Inflation, hunger, poverty and unemployment were also mentioned by the presidential candidate, who talked about the population’s difficulties and, in general, did not directly blame other actors or institutions;
  • Despite blaming the federal government, the senator did not mention President Bolsonaro in her content publications on economic issues. The other presidential candidates were also not mentioned by Tebet.

Methodology

We collected posts made by the presidential candidates was through the Twitter API on June 8, 2022. The first stage of the study was the application of a linguistic filter to identify posts that mentioned economic topics. Afterwards, these posts were classified into those that referred to issues and those that mentioned measures taken in the economic area, whether by the current government or by past administrations. Lastly, posts classified as issues were analyzed based on the issue they addressed and the attribution of blame. The study ranked 307 posts.

Posts with more than one issue and one culprit had all mentions taken into account. Blaming was defined by the explicit mention of an actor/institution/body. For example, mentions of the Federal Government were not automatically associated with mentions of Jair Bolsonaro; likewise, mentions of the PT were not directly associated with Lula. The identification of issues and culprits followed an initial list, which served as a basis for the incorporation of potential new names. At the end, a new round of analysis associated the issues with broader topics, aiming to facilitate the reading of the data. Below is a breakdown of the topics that make up the issues listed:

Fuel and Energy – increase in the price of fuels, gasoline, natural gas, diesel, privatization of Petrobras and Eletrobras, fertilizer crisis, energy crisis;
Economic Crisis – economic recession, drop in economic performance indicators, broad criticism of the “crisis”, mentioning other economic issues;
Employment – unemployment, precariousness of work, drop in job creation;
Debt – increase in indebtedness, difficulty paying debts;
Inflation – increase in inflation;
Poverty and Hunger – Poverty, devaluation of the minimum wage, food insecurity, misery and hunger;
Economic Reforms – Spending cap, pension reform, tax reform, criticism of the tax system and the distribution of the public budget;
Financial System – banking sector, central bank, financial market and interest rates;
International – foreign debt, issues resulting from international wars and other economic problems that mention international actors.