Brazil Race Tightens In New Poll, If Abstention Considered

Brazil’s election race is tightening in its final days as President Jair Bolsonaro narrows the gap with leftist challenger Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, according to a new poll.

Brazil Race Tightens in New Poll, If Abstention Considered
Brazil Race Tightens in New Poll, If Abstention Considered

Brazil’s presidential race is still tightening according to a new opinion poll that takes into account voters more likely to show up on election day.

While the Quaest poll published Wednesday confirmed the trend seen in other surveys that showed President Jair Bolsonaro stalling in the race, it also gauged the possible impact of abstention rates on Sunday’s runoff vote. 

Quaest’s so-called “likely voter” scenario has leftist former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva getting 52.1% of valid votes, which excludes null and blank ballots, down from 52.8% last week. Bolsonaro would get 47.9%, up from 47.2%. The changes fell within the survey’s margin of error. 

Brazil Race Tightens In New Poll, If Abstention Considered

Large abstention rates hurt Lula the most as they tend to be higher among the poor, who make up a large part of the former president’s base of support.

Latin America’s biggest election this year is coming down to the wire as both candidates try to chip away at each other’s support in the final stretch. This month, Bolsonaro, 67, launched a slew of last-minute measures such as extending welfare handouts for half a million families and boosting assistance for taxi drivers in a bid to improve voters’ feelings about the economy. 

That may be paying off, according to Thomas Traumann, a Rio de Janeiro-based political consultant and columnist.

“Pork-barrel politics is highly efficient in Brazilian elections and normally gives the incumbent extra points when vote comes,” Traumann said. 

For his part, Lula, 76, has tried to capitalize on blunders made by the president and his allies over the past few days. He said Bolsonaro’s pro-gun stance and bellicose rhetoric contributed to a violent standoff this weekend between federal police and Roberto Jefferson, a onetime lawmaker and staunch supporter of the president. 

Adjusting Methodology

After underestimating Bolsonaro’s support in the first-round vote, some pollsters have tweaked their methodology and adjusted their representative samples in a bid to improve accuracy for the runoff. 

The nation is bracing for the final televised presidential debate on Friday, though most voters have already made up their minds. According to Quaest, just 7% of respondents said they’d be willing to switch their vote.

Quaest interviewed 2,000 people between Oct. 23 and 25, and the poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 2 percentage points. 

(Recasts story to explain impact of abstention rates in Quaest’s numbers.)

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