•Polarization has dominated social networks recently, but it is not the only relevant expression on Twitter and Facebook;
•Although less organized than those groups against and in favor of Brazil’s former president Lula, a third political field has attempted to assess the testimony from a neutral position
Presented in social media as the fight of the century, the conflict between admirers and haters of former president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva and of judge Sérgio Moro resulted in the greatest news of recent times in the Brazilian internet: the third force. FGV/DAPP (Department of Public Policy Analysis of Getulio Vargas Foundation) conducted a survey during 24 hours before and after the testimony of former president Lula to judge Moro. The results showed that polarization still dominates social networks, but it is not the only relevant expression on Twitter and Facebook. Although less organized than those main groups against and in favor of Lula, this third political field attempts to make an equidistant assessment of the former president’s testimony, often criticizing, even with sarcasm, both main characters and the warlike tone of party militants.
Additional data has reinforced FGV/DAPP’s interpretation that there is a third force in the internet, which is disconnected from Lula’s supporters (didactically named as the “Red” ones) and from the groups that promoted the impeachment and vehemently defended the Operation Car Wash (called the “Blue” ones). Lula’s testimony received 650 thousand mentions on Twitter. This expressive volume, though, was lower than the 1.5 million mentions about the general strike against the reforms on social security and labor laws. It demonstrates that, although Lula and Moro have catalyzed the political position of millions of Brazilians, they are not the only ones. Issues such as social security rights (in the case of the general strike) and a neutral assessment of Lula and the Operation Car Wash have also mobilized people. Besides the Blue and Red characters, social networks also have space for the “Green” ones, as we call the third group.
However, beyond the debate on the individuals at stake, the analysis in social networks about the legal-political event this Wednesday indicates some balance between the forces organized in the two main political fields in social media. This situation, observed in the DAPP Report about the general strike on the 28th, was the opposite of the context verified between the post-election period in 2014 and the impeachment of President Dilma Rousseff one year ago, when opponents of the impeachment were on the defensive, and supporters represented a majority. This new balance of forces is likely to manifest in the next weeks and months (without any damage from potential, fragmented, small sectors, such as the green group). It must maintain polarization and a radical debate, with the possibility of gathering around agendas that include the reforms proposed by Michel Temer’s government and conflicts on the course of the Operation Car Wash, as we have observed recently. The testimony also reinforced the personification of Moro as the most important figure against Lula in this context – the universe of social networks.
A non-aligned majority
CAs mentioned previously, the debate about the testimony on Twitter reinforced the political polarization crystallized in recent years, but it also pointed out the strong presence of a non-aligned majority (green group). The profiles of this majority are not necessarily in the same political field, but they share a position on social networks of not aligning with discourses clearly supporting or attacking Lula. Those profiles more clearly aligned with one field or another are not connected, which indicates a low possibility (not to say zero possibility) of mediation between them. The non-aligned group represented around one third of the mentions in the analyzed period (32.3%). The profiles of Lula’s opponents represented 20.7% of interactions, while the supporting profiles represented 19.2%. The remaining 28% consisted of smaller and fragmented groups in the social network.
Map of Interactions on Twitter
(665 thousand tweets – May 10, from 12am to 12am)
Influencers per Cluster
The geographical analysis of the debate about the testimony on Twitter – based on the volume of mentions proportional to the population of each state – shows a debate spread throughout the country, but with some differences in each cluster.
Mentions per State on Twitter (green group – non-aligned profiles)
Mentions per State on Twitter (blue group – pro-Car Wash)
Mentions per State on Twitter (red group – pro-Lula)
The age range of profiles supporting Lula in their mentions was above 34, as opposed to the age distribution of Facebook users in Brazil, who are mostly young people below this age range. This trend has also been observed in other discussions about politics and economy, which, for example, verified that younger people are less engaged. Whether supporting Lula or the Operation Car Wash, most profiles are in the age range above 34, according to the graphs below.
However, when analyzing age distribution, 58.3% of Lula’s supporters on Facebook are 45 years old or older. On the other hand, Lula’s opponents in this age range represent only 45.5% of the sample. The supporting group of the Operation Car Wash includes mostly users older than 35 years old. This is a significant fact, because it indicates the existence of users who apparently have not found positions that represent their values within the polarization. If, on one hand, this part of users have not found a movement, a leadership or a single agenda to join, on the other hand, there is free space to be occupied during the developing debate-conflict in the next months. This space can conciliate agendas from both poles – fight against corruption and opposition to reforms, for example.
Therefore, there are important points to be observed:
•With an eye in the 2018 scenario, the analysis suggested that there is an important – maybe growing – sector that is tired of the traditional polarization;
•Regarding the public agenda, this political field (although not organized) tends to make space for demands that not only conciliates views from traditional fields, but also goes beyond;
•At this point, the age factor must be important, because the young may be protagonist in the possible arousal of a political alternative;
•Therefore, this movement tends to overcome the dichotomy crystallized in the last years, promoting an agenda to improve the political system as a whole and generate new opportunities.
Marco Aurelio Ruediger
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