Oxfam polled thousands of Brazilians on their perception of the problems facing their country, one-third quote religion as a way to improve their lives.

“Brazil above everything, God above everyone.” There are reasons, deeply entrenched in Brazilian society, why Jair Bolsonaro’s election motto worked so well. For decades, the country was known for being home to the largest Catholic population in the world: 65 percent of Brazilians in 2010, per the Pew Research Center. But while the number of Catholics are shrinking in the country, it is by no means because the country is becoming less religious. Instead, it is connected to the advance of Evangelical Christianity.

Make no mistake: Brazil remains a God-fearing country.

</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">“By no means can you downplay religion or toss it aside. If we discuss <a href="https://brazilian.report/money/2018/11/07/racial-inequality-brazil-charts/">inequality</a> and leave this subject off the table, people shut themselves down,” highlights Katia Maia, Executive Director of Oxfam in Brazil. The British non-profit group organization released the report “Us and the inequalities,” about Brazilians’ perception of the most severe problem that affects the country. “A nation with such a level of inequality has no chance in the world,” sums up Oded Grajew, chairman of Oxfam’s board. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">The report is based on a survey of 2,086 people, conducted by polling institute <a href="https://brazilian.report/power/2019/04/08/opinion-poll-warning-bolsonaro/">Datafolha</a> in February.  </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Religion stands as the number one priority for 28 percent of Brazilians to improve their lives, followed by education (21 percent) and healthcare (19 percent). Retirement pensions (6 percent) and access to culture (2 percent) are the lowest-ranked options. While it can be tempting to paint religious people as narrow-minded and believing that God will help them earn better salaries more than a diploma, that would be a mistake. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">“Religion is not the only solution seen by people. But it is an important asset to tame their suffering,” stresses Ms. Maia. The research shows that only 8 percent of Brazilians regard making money as &#8220;imperative to have a good life.&#8221; </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">But while religion has always played a crucial role in Brazilian society, religious fervor has increased in recent years. As Ms. Maia explains, “the motto ‘God above everyone’ is not a minor message and it has thriven because it has resonance. So denying religion&#8217;s role in Brazil is the worst possible choice.”</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Also aligned with Jair Bolsonaro’s platform, corruption tops the list of priority measures to fight inequality, mainly among the upper classes (those who earn over BRL 5,000 per month). Fighting racism ranks sixth, highlighting the lack of perception of the impact of racial inequality in Brazil. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">“Anti-corruption has become an opportunistic strategy, because corruption is a very old problem in our society. Our main concern is that it undermines our institutions. And a strong democracy needs solid institutions,” says Katia Maia. Social programs that imply direct cash transfers, such as Bolsa Família, rank tenth among the most popular measures. For the author of the report, Rafael Georges, this is the result of a stigma built around the project, especially among high-income people. </span></p> <h2>A strong welfare state</h2> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Following the worst recession in Brazilian history, more people are starting to see the importance of using taxpayer money to fund cash-transfer programs. Among low-income Brazilians, 39 percent agree with this—while the rate among high-income groups is just 17 percent. The sluggish economy has taken a bigger toll on poorer Brazilians, which would explain these results, Ms. Maia outlines.          </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Since 2008, the support for these kinds of policies has oscillated, however. That year, it reached 44 percent among the poorest of the population, but dramatically dropped to 26 percent in 2014, reflecting the frustration with state institutions that boosted the massive demonstrations that swept Brazil in the period. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">But even if Brazilians are undergoing a profound crisis of representation, expectations about the state&#8217;s role in everyday life remain high. Two-thirds of the population think the government must provide healthcare and education for all, regardless of their economic condition. “Meritocracy is far from being the main solution,” says Rafael Georges. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Most Brazilians believe that poor adults and poor children don’t have the same chances to succeed as rich people, even if both are given the same opportunities (i.e. going to the same school). “People made their choice with the 1988 Constitution. Our tax burden rose in the 1990s and Brazilians want a strong welfare state,” completes Mr. Georges.

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SocietyApr 09, 2019

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BY Maria Martha Bruno

Maria Martha is a journalist with 14 years of experience in politics, arts, and breaking news. She has already collaborated with Al Jazeera, NBC, and CNN, among others. She has also worked as an international correspondent in Buenos Aires.