- 58% of Brazilians disapprove of Bolsonaro; 38% approve
- 67% are not confident in the honesty of their country's elections
- 69% say corruption is widespread throughout government
WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Brazilians head to the polls Sunday in the first round of voting to elect their next legislature and president. Incumbent President Jair Bolsonaro is running for reelection against a field of opposition candidates, including popular former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva -- who is currently leading Bolsonaro in most polls.
In the run-up to the general elections, Gallup surveys show Bolsonaro remains widely unpopular and has never achieved the type of approval ratings his main challenger enjoyed during his presidency.
Quick Summary: In many ways, the two leading presidential candidates are mirror images. Da Silva is a left-wing social reformer who earned high marks for his job performance during his two terms in office. However, after he left office, he was implicated in a corruption scandal and subsequently imprisoned for over a year on these charges. Brazil's Supreme Court annulled da Silva's conviction in 2021, which enabled him to stand for election in 2022.
Bolsonaro is a right-wing politician who has largely run and governed on a populist law-and-order platform. He has been a controversial figure in Brazilian politics, ignoring deforestation in the Amazon and downplaying the significance of and danger posed by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Bolsonaro has already questioned the integrity of the Brazilian electoral system ahead of the election and has been accused of rhetoric that encourages violence associated with the election.
Brazilians Disenchanted With Bolsonaro: In the run-up to the election, nearly six in 10 Brazilians (58%) disapprove of the job Bolsonaro is doing, while 38% approve. These data were collected July 22-Aug. 8, 2022, just before election campaigning officially started.
The current 38% of Brazilians who approve of the job Bolsonaro is doing is similar to most ratings throughout his presidency -- and just two percentage points lower than ratings during his first year in office.
Bolsonaro's highest approval rating to date was 50% in 2020. Data collection that year took place largely before the second wave of COVID-19 took hold in the country. During that time, Bolsonaro did not order lockdowns to control the spread of the disease and generally downplayed the importance of the pandemic, in which an estimated 685,000 Brazilians have died.
Da Silva, on the other hand, received the highest rating in Gallup's trend on Brazilian leader approval -- 82% in 2010. At the other end of the spectrum, Michel Temer received the lowest level of approval, with 7% in 2018. Temer took office as acting president after Dilma Rousseff was impeached for corruption and removed. Brazilians' poor views of Temer were also colored by the 2016 recession in the country, which is considered the worst since the turn of the 20th century.
Most Brazilians Lack Confidence in the Honesty of Elections: Bolsonaro has repeatedly leveled allegations of electoral fraud ahead of the impending vote. While Brazil's government and other politicians have refuted these allegations, Brazilians have placed little confidence in their elections for years. Two in three Brazilians (67%) interviewed this year say they do not have confidence in the honesty of elections, while 30% say they do.
This is little changed from 2021, when 68% of Brazilians lacked confidence in the honesty of elections while 32% were confident. However, the current confidence is still notably higher than most ratings over the past 15 years.
While a clear majority of Brazilians lack faith in the honesty of their elections, the current 67% is still well below the trend high of 85% in 2017, ahead of the 2018 general elections.
Most Brazilians See Widespread Corruption in Government: In addition to a general lack of confidence in the honesty of elections, a majority of Brazilians (69%) see corruption as widespread in their government, while 26% say it is not.
Although Bolsonaro appealed to voters in his first election because he promised to clean up politics and root out corruption, throughout his first term, the percentage of Brazilians seeing corruption as endemic has never dropped lower than the present number. Bolsonaro himself has been the target of corruption allegations.
Further, while Bolsonaro lambasted da Silva for leading Brazil's "most corrupt government ever" in a recent debate, corruption is perceived to be just as widespread today as it was during da Silva's presidency, if not slightly more so.
Brazilian voters face a stark choice between two very different front-runners. While most media reports indicate that da Silva has a substantial lead in the polls, there will be a runoff election on Oct. 30 if no candidate wins more than 50% of the vote.
Given the low levels of confidence that Brazilians have in the honesty of elections, coupled with allegations of fraud already leveled against the electoral process, there is a substantial risk that the election could be contested or even that violence could occur.
Brazil was a military dictatorship for 21 years, from 1964 to 1985 -- and while there is little suggestion that it is likely to happen again, the wounds of that period linger. Potential electoral violence or other irregularities in efforts by a candidate to grab power could reopen that trauma and cause the country to backslide from decades of democratic rule.
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