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Brazilians Face Confidence Crisis Ahead of Election

Brazilians Face Confidence Crisis Ahead of Election

Story Highlights

  • 17% of Brazilians confident in the country's national government
  • 77% say corruption is widespread throughout government
  • 14% have faith in the honesty of Brazil's elections

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- With their faith in their current government mired at record lows, Brazilians are primed for change ahead of elections next month that could chart the future of democracy in the region. In national surveys conducted in late July and August, fewer than one in five Brazilians (17%) expressed confidence in their national government.

Line graph. Eighty-one percent of Brazilians say they do not have confidence in their national government, 17% say they do.

The current situation is a far cry from what it was before the presidential elections in 2010 that brought former President Dilma Rousseff to power. That year, Brazilians' confidence in their national government was at a record high of 51%. Brazilians have endured years of political and economic turmoil since then, including vast corruption scandals that resulted in Rousseff's impeachment in 2016 and the country's worst recession in decades.

Rousseff, at the time, inherited a surging economy, but the government was facing severe fiscal difficulties. By 2011, the Brazilian economy was beginning to sputter and Rousseff's government sought to bolster it with a series of tax cuts. By 2014, the country was in a full-blown economic crisis, which contributed to the decline in confidence in the government.

The financial crisis was coupled with a corruption crisis that year, which featured allegations of millions of dollars of bribes to Brazilian political leaders. That year, Rousseff was re-elected by a thin margin. But her administration was cut short by impeachment in 2016, following Rouseff's implication in the corruption scandal. Rousseff was succeeded by her vice-president Michel Temer, who has also faced allegations of corruption.

Brazilians See Government as Corrupt, Have Little Faith in Elections

Given the onslaught of corruption scandals since 2014, including the involvement of two current candidates for the presidency, it's not surprising to see that more than three in four Brazilians have said corruption is widespread throughout their government in the past few years. But even before the 2014 scandal, majorities of Brazilians had seen corruption as widespread in their government every year that Gallup asked the question.

Seventy-seven percent of Brazilians say corruption is widespread in their government.

Coupled with their lack of faith in their government and their belief that corruption is rampant throughout it, few Brazilians see the country's elections as honest. Less than a third of Brazilians have seen the country's elections as honest at any time that Gallup has asked the question.

However, since 2013, that percentage has fallen to less than 20% of the country's population. The drop in faith in the country's elections came after widespread protests in 2013, in opposition to government corruption in spending on stadiums and other infrastructure for the "Confederations Cup" soccer tournament which was held in the country that year, rather than funding social programs.

Fourteen percent of Brazilians have faith in the honesty of their elections.

Bottom Line

Brazilians' disaffection with the current state of the government helps to explain why anti-establishment presidential candidate Jair Bolsonaro has performed so well in recent polling. Bolsonaro has been described as the "Trump of the Tropics," in reference to policies he advocates that are similar to those of U.S. President Donald Trump.

Bolsonaro, a former army officer, has closely aligned himself with other former members of the Brazilian military running for office this election cycle. Bolsonaro and the other former-military-officers-turned-political-candidates have claimed that "military values" are essential for rescuing Brazil from the country's current political and economic troubles. For a country that was under a military dictatorship within modern memory, the last military government having ended in 1985, such rhetoric may pose a significant challenge to democratic institutions should they take power.

Early in the election cycle, the front-runner had been former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, known as "Lula," but he was disqualified because of a corruption conviction. Lula's party replaced him with Fernando Haddad, who is now Bolsonaro's closest competitor.

Representing the same leftist political party as both Lula and Rousseff, Haddad has presented himself as an alternative to the policies advocated by Bolsonaro, pledging to end the government's austerity measures and increase spending in an effort to end the current recession plaguing Brazil. However, Haddad is not well known among most Brazilians and has been charged with corruption by state prosecutors, positioning him as the establishment candidate with an electorate that is largely fed up with the government.

For complete methodology and specific survey dates, please review Gallup's Country Data Set details.

Learn more about how the Gallup World Poll works.

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