The extreme political polarization witnessed during this year’s Brazilian presidential election is connected to the class divisions exacerbated by the Workers’ Party’s public policies which ignored the middle class. This was the main conclusion of a recent study published by the World Inequality Lab, authored by Amory Gethin and Marc Morgan, combining inequality statistics and opinion polls to try and contextualize the current moment of Brazil.
The nine-page report, entitled Brazil Divided: Hindsights on the Growing Politicisation of Inequality, argues that the Workers’ Party’s focus on creating public policies for the poor, growing the income of this segment largely at the expense of the middle class, caused significant cleavages across society culminating in the election of Jair Bolsonaro.
It is no secret that the Workers’ Party’s traditional voter base transformed dramatically after the election of Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, in 2002. Originally a party favored by middle-class left-wing intellectuals, once in government, the Workers’ Party began to appeal far more to poorer voters hovering above or below the poverty line. This was due the heralded welfare programs instated during Lula’s government, such as the conditional cash transfer initiative Bolsa Família, the huge Growth Acceleration Program (PAC)—which expanded investment for housing, infrastructure, and sanitation, among other areas—and the considerable increases to the minimum wage made during Lula’s years.