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On Sunday, Brazilians went to the polls to elect their governors, part of the Congress, and their next president. Former socialist president Lula da Silva won in the first round with 48.4% of the votes, five points ahead of current president Jair Bolsonaro, who obtained 43.2%. However, the general results consecrated Bolsonarism as the leading political force in Brazil.
In addition, they rendered downright foolish the polls that marginalized him from a presidential runoff and predicted a comfortable victory for Lula.
For months, experts, analysts, and pollsters said Bolsonaro had no chance of winning reelection. According to the vast majority of polls, Lula da Silva was up to 15 points ahead of his conservative adversary and would triumph without needing to go to a second round. However, the results made a mockery of these forecasts.
In particular, five surveys stood out:
One of the polls that was worst off after the official results was that of Datafolha, since its last poll showed Lula as the winner with 50% of the votes and Bolsonaro with the tiny figure of 36%. In theory, the poll had a margin of error of two points. But it missed by more, as the conservative got seven points more than expected.
Datafolha’s survey was taken as a reference by major media outlets in Brazil and around the world.
Only on October 1, CNN Brazil echoed a survey conducted by Atlas Intelligence and Arko Advice. Their numbers were also very bad, as they reported Lula as the winner with 50.3 % and Bolsonaro with 41.1 %, nine points behind. An error of about four percentage points.
Another inexplicable poll was that of Ipec inteligencia, which had predicted a huge 14-point lead for Lula in the first round of the elections, with 51% of the valid votes. Their poll excluded blank, null and undecided votes and had a margin of error of three percentage points. In the end, Lula got three points less than expected and Bolsonaro up to six points more.
The survey for the second round by this pollster does not vary much, as it says that Lula’s advantage is fifteen points (52-37).
Another poll that gave more than 50% to Lula was the survey jointly elaborated by Genial/Quaest, which showed a difference of 14 points between Bolsonaro and the socialist candidate. Four days ago, CNN Brazil echoed the survey. In the end, Lula got only two points less, but Bolsonaro 7 points more.
The Ipespe telephone poll, conducted last September 30 among 1,100 people, was widely covered in Brazilian press and also gave a very wide advantage to Lula: 49 % – 35 %, that is, 14 percentage points. The poll had a margin of error of three percentage points. Ipespe almost got the support for the socialist candidate right, but missed by eight points the votes that went to the Brazilian president.
Bolsonarism pulverized the polls
This is not the first time that polls have underestimated Jair Bolsonaro’s popularity. In 2018, something similar happened, when the conservative leader surprised the world by becoming head of state in the South American giant.
Although Lula has a significant lead over Bolsonaro of some six million votes, the figure is far from the difference predicted by the polls. In turn, the votes of the centrist Simone Tebet and the center-left Ciro Gomes, which represent 7.2 percentage points, about eight and a half million votes, are up in the air.
Tebet has presented herself as the “third way” candidate, floating in the middle of Bolsonaro’s conservatism and Lula’s socialism. Meanwhile, Gomes, who was previously an ally of the former socialist president, became an unexpected ally of the current president Bolsonaro. However, the question remains as to whether Gomes will, in the end, go against Lula and whether his voters are sufficiently loyal to him.
Bolsonaro has a chance to turn the elections around and, in addition, his political project was consolidated in the Senate and Congress, obtaining a majority in both Houses and even achieving historic results. In these elections, pollsters’ errors were even greater. For example, Congressman Nikola Ferreira, only 26 years old, reached the voting record for a congressman with 1.4 million votes
Likewise, the governorships also favored Bolsonaro, as the conservative got 9 of his candidates to triumph in these elections, four more than Lula (5). In total, the governorships of 15 of Brazil’s 27 states were defined on Sunday, as the winners obtained more than half of the votes. Twelve will be defined in a second round, among them the important governorship of Sao Paulo.
“Lula is still the favorite to win the runoff. But just like Trump, Bolsonaro has shown that his support makes a big difference for candidates for Senate, Governor & Congress,” Oliver Stuenkel, professor of international relations at the Getulio Vargas Foundation in Sao Paulo, explained on Twitter. “That will make it harder for center-right politicians to challenge Bolsonaro’s hegemony over Brazil’s right.”
Jair Bolsonaro, against all odds, pulverized the polls and the political pundits who had left him trailing. He now has a little less than a month to build the necessary alliances, convince the undecided and mobilize even more of his base to turn the presidential elections around. Will he achieve the win?
Emmanuel Alejandro Rondón is a journalist at El American specializing in the areas of American politics and media analysis // Emmanuel Alejandro Rondón es periodista de El American especializado en las áreas de política americana y análisis de medios de comunicación.
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