2018 Election 2018 Election

What to make of Brazil’s latest presidential poll

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jair bolsonaro presidential poll

Bolsonaro leads latest presidential poll

A new presidential poll has been released this week, confirming that the 2018 election is the most unpredictable race in Brazil’s democratic history. The front-runner for the race, former President Lula, is expected to remain excluded from the ballot. If that scenario is confirmed, then nearly half of the electorate won’t know who to vote for. According to the latest numbers, an astonishing 45 percent of voters remain undecided.

Here, we’re breaking down the numbers from this latest poll.

1. The extreme-right advance is real

For months now, Brazilian analysts have dismissed the strong polling performances by extreme right-winger Jair Bolsonaro. The former army captain with an extensive rap sheet of controversy would be “too radical” for the general election, some have said. The numbers do show that Bolsonaro’s voting intentions have oscillated negatively, albeit still within the margin of error.

But in this latest spontaneous poll – in which voters must declare a candidate without having a list of options – 12.4 percent say Bolsonaro. Aside from Lula, his numbers are outperforming those of anyone else.

Bolsonaro’s electorate appears less volatile than his competition’s. He has also masterfully crafted his image as an outsider – despite being in Congress for the best part of the last 30 years. In an election as competitive as this one, winning between 15 and 20 percent of votes might be enough to secure him a spot in the runoff stage.

If that indeed occurs, then Bolsonaro’s chances of ascending to Brazil’s top seat become far more likely. His main weaknesses – including his lack of substantial TV airtime – will become less decisive for voters.

2. The next best thing after Lula

Former President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva is polling at 32 percent and would win in any scenario if the election were today. But the incarcerated politician is expected to have his candidacy rejected by the electoral justice system. In this case, center-left candidates would benefit.

Marina Silva and Ciro Gomes, for instance, have paltry numbers in the spontaneous poll – less than 2 percent of votes – but rise in scenarios where Lula is off the ballot. Former Supreme Court Justice Joaquim Barbosa could have capitalized on that voter base, but he decided to leave the race. No candidate has yet become the “natural heir” to Barbosa’s would-be voters.

3. The clear loser

Although the main conclusion to draw from the latest presidential poll is that uncertainty remains, one candidate is likely feeling bitter right now: Geraldo Alckmin, the former São Paulo governor.

A few months ago, Alckmin was regarded as one of the race’s favorites, a moderate in a race dominated by extremists. Many pundits believed that his party’s firepower, in terms of money and allies, would be enough to push the uncharismatic candidate to the top. Now, his presidential bid seems more like a sinking ship.

Alckmin is polling at just 5.3 percent in the most likely scenario. But over 55 percent of voters say they wouldn’t vote for him under any circumstance. That’s 5 percentage points more than in March.

4. No room for continuity

Former Finance Minister Henrique Meirelles joined MDB – President Michel Temer’s party – hoping to run for president in October. The former minister, who remains unknown to a third of the electorate, would represent the legacy of the sitting administration.

That, however, would be anything but electorally advantageous.

An astounding 88 percent of voters refuse to vote for President Michel Temer under any circumstance, illustrating the low popular opinion of his administration.

Less than five months from the election, nearly half of Brazilians still don’t know who to vote for. That statistic reveals that Temer and Alckmin are by no means the only loathed high-profile political figures. While the election will have no “true” outsider, after TV presenter Luciano Huck and former Supreme Court Justice Joaquim Barbosa decided to drop out, the three leading remaining candidates have all been sitting on the sidelines of the current establishment.

That is not a coincidence.

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