As Brazil's political crisis continues, it's not always easy to find level-headed, middle-of-the-road analysis. So it's useful to find a smart breakdown of the ideological divide with some cold, hard data. It's difficult to get a complete picture on the country's divisions amid a fast-moving and complex situation; this article offers some insight and food for thought.
Writing for Piauí, Malu Gaspar explains what surveys show about the country's political polarization. The following excerpts are translated from the original Portuguese.
"Datafolha surveys conducted during the pro- and anti-government protests show that there were in fact differences between the two groups. Among the pro-impeachment demonstrators, 37 percent earned more than ten times the minimum wage; among Dilma's supporters, 24 percent had this same salary. During the anti-government protests, 12 percent were businesspeople. In the pro-Dilma protests, 15 percent were civil servants. However, in both protests, close to 80 percent of the demonstrators had a college education, around 30 percent had formal-sector jobs, and more than half earned more than 5 times the minimum wage. Which led to the conclusion that on both sides, those who were in the streets were a significant part of the elite," she wrote.
Another survey by Data Popular asked Brazilians from the so-called C class (new middle class) and the D and E classes (the country's poorest) why they didn't go to the protests - neither for nor against the government.
"Data Popular found that the poorest didn't go to the demonstrations because, first, they consider them 'a rich people thing.' Next, it's because they are total nonbelievers in political parties and the political system, and they don't think that Dilma Rousseff's fall would bring radical changes to the social and economic landscape," she adds.
But as it turns out, impeachment isn't something that divides the political classes as much as one might think.
"'The same proportion of people support impeachment in all social classes. But the reasons each group wants impeachment are diametrically opposed,' says Renato Meirelles, president of Data Popular. 'Brazilians are much less divided about impeachment than they are about the future of the country.' According to Meirelles, the C class is much more upset about the shrinking of government benefits - like Bolsa Família, Minha Casa Minha Vida, Prouni, and Pronatec - than about corruption.
'For them, Dilma has to go because she hasn't delivered on her campaign promises and she hasn't managed to expand these benefits.' This group, therefore, defends an efficient but provider state - which Meirelles calls a 'vigorous state' - while the completely opposite thing happens with those from wealthier social strata. 'In general, the richest 20 percent want a downsized state.' And it's this point where the ideological divide really matters, and it's this issue that the country will have to deal with after the impeachment impasse is resolved. Since the Brazilian government is broke and cuts are inevitable, the unavoidable collision will be traumatic."
Data Popular also found that Brazilians had very few ideas about potential leaders who could take on the crisis.
"In January, Data Popular asked 3,500 people of all social classes if they could name one person capable of getting the country out of the crisis - 89 percent said they couldn't think of a name. Of the 11 percent who did identify someone, the majority cited Pope Francis."
Image: Agencia Brasil/Creative Commons.