2022 Race

Bolsonaro still struggles to narrow Lula’s lead, new poll finds

President Bolsonaro attending a motorcycle rally with supporters of Campo Grande, Mato Grosso do Sul. Photo: Clauber Cleber Caetano/PR
President Bolsonaro attending a motorcycle rally with supporters of Campo Grande, Mato Grosso do Sul. Photo: Clauber Cleber Caetano/PR

Two and a half weeks before Election Day, presidential polls have remained largely stable. A new reading from Datafolha, Brazil’s most renowned pollster, shows that little has changed in the overall picture.

Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, a former two-term president, stayed parked at 45 percent — repeating his numbers from the previous two polls. Incumbent Jair Bolsonaro, meanwhile, fell from 34 to 33 percent. 

Since former Justice Minister Sergio Moro dropped out of the race in May (and most of his voters presumably flocked to the president), the change in the two frontrunners’ polling numbers have been of 3 points for Lula (48 to 45 percent) and 6 points to Mr. Bolsonaro (27 to 33 percent). 

In other words: polling curves are as flat as ever, when compared to other elections. 

Mr. Bolsonaro’s inability to narrow the gap to Lula and break the low-30s mark may suggest that he has reached his ceiling — despite pouring money into the economy through stimulus measures and social benefits, getting Congress to circumvent electoral rules to do so.

Not even improving macroeconomic numbers, which led the government to raise its GDP growth estimates from 2 to 2.7 percent, have helped Mr. Bolsonaro. 

For Lula, the new Datafolha poll also brings sobering findings. His campaign spending (BRL 51.1 million — USD 9.7 million) has eclipsed that of all competitors. And still, it hasn’t budged the electoral needle his way. The possibility of a first-round win seems less likely every week — he is 3 points below the sum of his competitors.

The former president is trying to get voters to engage in tactical voting, convincing those voting for Ciro Gomes (8%), Simone Tebet (5%), or Soraya Thronicke (2%) to back Lula and beat the incumbent in the first round.

For that, Lula is seeking to display a broad front to bar the anti-democratic Jair Bolsonaro from a second term.

But that endeavor is easier said than done. The share of voters who have picked Ciro Gomes but who would consider changing their choice on Election Day has dropped from 72 percent late in May to 52 percent now. Mr. Gomes has launched a counter strategy, saying that calling for tactical voting is akin to disrespecting voters’ preferences. 

But a push from voters to end an election already in the first round wouldn’t be unprecedented. And Lula plans to launch a blitz on these voters. On his side are Mr. Bolsonaro’s massive rejection rates: 53 percent say would not vote for him regardless of the situation, more than for any other re-election hopeful in Brazilian presidential history.