Opinion – Vinicius Torres Freire: Numbers indicate a tight election and a lot in the dark


Most polls suggest that the presidential election is tight. Very tight when considering voter volatility (propensity to change their minds at the last minute) and “camouflaged” voting, a hypothesis still at the table of discussions on the results of electoral surveys.

The surprise of the low number of blank and null votes in the first round of 2022, the lowest of all redemocratization elections, adds uncertainty to the forecasts. To make matters worse, there are the moods of abstention. The municipal and state results also do not allow to speculate even vaguely about voting motives.

For the rest, we still know little about what is happening: how the country and the political-electoral conversation have changed.

In most polls, Lula appears ahead of Bolsonaro by a difference of around 7 points (considered the “total votes”, that count that does not rule out blanks and nulls). In Datafolha, there are 5 points.

Speculating with the results of the first round also doesn’t help much to think about what might come out of the polls on October 30. These numbers still don’t even serve to guide more detailed (or less disoriented) campaign strategies. They need time-consuming, university chewing. Not to mention the fact that the electoral conversation runs underground, which are only now beginning to be studied and about which there are no precise measurements, starting with networks and cell phone messages.

A first inspection of the municipal votes of Lula and Bolsonaro in the first round indicates that their results were very similar to those of 2018 (compared to the proportional vote of Bolsonaro and Fernando Haddad). At least when voting by city, the correlation between 2022 and 2018 is almost perfect.

There is no relationship between “wealth” (the precarious measure of municipal GDP per capita) and voting for Lula and Bolsonaro. Municipal HDI numbers (such as those from Firjan, the most recent from 2016) vaguely suggest a slightly higher vote for Bolsonaro the higher the city’s HDI, and the reverse for Lula.

Economic speculations with the data currently available do not make much sense. If the increase in formal employment in three years or so had been an indicator of “economic improvement” in cities, this improvement would have had no noticeable effect on the vote for Lula and Bolsonaro. The even cruder state-by-state sales and employment figures would also give no clue.

It is more difficult than ever to see how the vagaries of the economy of everyday life affect each type of voter. The similarity of the spatial distribution of the vote (between 2022 and 2018) and the absence of evidence of the effect of the “economy” on the vote of cities and regions may suggest that a relevant part of the electoral conversation is of another kind.

Immediately, one can suggest that this election is a referendum on Bolsonaro and Lula, “for the whole of the work” and something else. The something else may well be the discussions guided by Bolsonaro: “God, country and family”, “communism”, anti-system preaching (and, within that, anti-statism), the praise (of a certain aspect) of violence, “identities “, corruption (and a perverted version) and, on the other hand, the survival of democracy.

Considering the inconsistencies listed at the beginning of this text and the fact that there are still 19 days left for voting, the outcome of the election is very uncertain. It cannot be decreed that the electoral discussion cannot take another course, but there has been a lack of imagination or novelty in the campaigns that are now starting again. Also, a decisive conversation to capture the “neithers” of the first round has not yet appeared.

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