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Cities with a higher number of COVID deaths maintained their support

As observed in 2018, the Brazilian municipalities with the highest number of votes for Jair Bolsonaro (Liberal Party) in 2022 were also those that recorded the highest number of deaths from COVID-19, with the worst period of infection occurring between August 2020 and 2020. April 2021. This is evident from a study by the State University of Campinas (Unicamp, in Portuguese).

Previous studies have already shown a link between deaths from the coronavirus and the electoral choice made in the presidential elections before the pandemic (in 2018). The new analysis, referring to the most recent presidential elections, confirms that this trend has not changed even after the consequences of the health emergency.

According to the data survey for 2018 and 2022, in general, for every 1% increase in municipal votes for Bolsonaro, there was a 0.48% to 0.64% increase in mortality in the city or municipality during the worst periods of the pandemic. The study suggests that this connection may be related to the influence the former president – ​​now ineligible – had on his electorate.

“Disbelief about the harmful effects of the pandemic, non-acceptance of the use of masks, initial resistance to the purchase of vaccines and the slow implementation of an immunization campaign may be some of the reasons for this link between Bolsonaro’s votes and the high mortality. ”

The results indicate that even the high number of deaths during the pandemic did not seem to sway Bolsonaro’s voters from one election to the next. On the other hand, the municipalities that voted most in favor of the candidacy of the Workers’ Party of Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva showed no correlation with the increase in COVID-related mortality.

According to the study, the phenomenon may also be related to the concepts of tribal politics and affective polarization. The first term refers to “a political environment dominated by voters whose primary concern is ‘those who are with us and those who are against us’ and who support candidates who represent their ethnic, religious or group beliefs, regardless of the policies they ( politicians) propagate.”

Affective polarization, on the other hand, occurs when there is a broad sense of rejection toward certain political groups. In Brazil, this is strongly represented by the so-called “antipetismo”, which means the antipathy towards supporters of the Workers’ Party (known in Portuguese as “petistas”).

“Specifically, supporters with high hostility toward other political parties are more likely to distinguish themselves from their political opponents. They tend to take positions on new issues that differ from those of the other party and are consistent with those of their preferred party.”

The study used data from the Mortality Information System (SIM, in Portuguese), the Ministry of Health, Electoral Justice and the Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics (IBGE, in Portuguese).

To find the highest death rates, a comparison was made between the total number of deaths during the worst moments of the pandemic and the monthly average number of deaths in the five years before the health emergency. The analysis took into account the votes cast in the first round of each presidential election.

The analysis was carried out in collaboration with Fiocruz Bahia and the Federal University of Bahia (UFBA, in Portuguese) and published in the scientific journal “Cadernos de Saúde Pública”.

Edited by: Thalita Pires