Brazil is an aberration in opinions on abortion and drugs – 03/23/2024 – Vinicius Torres Freire

Brazil is an aberration in opinions on abortion and drugs – 03/23/2024 – Vinicius Torres Freire


Brazilians became even less likely to accept changes in laws on abortion and the possession of some marijuana, says a March Datafolha survey. For example, 67% think that possession of small amounts of marijuana should no longer be a crime (compared to 61% in September 2023).

Are the majority of Brazilians more “conservative” or inclined to support the restriction of individual rights? Conservative or anti-liberal about what?

Datafolha from May 2022, which investigated opinions on the economy and behavior, recorded that 49% of voters were left-wing, the highest rate in nine years; 34% were right-wing. For 83%, drug use should be prohibited, 61% were against the death penalty, 79% said that “homosexuality should be accepted by the whole society”. For 63%, gun ownership should be prohibited.

Of Jair Bolsonaro’s voters at the time, 29% were on the left; among those of Lula da Silva, 23% were on the right.

Brazilians are very interventionist in certain behavioral issues. As for abortion and drug decriminalization, they are really aberrant, compared to similar countries. But the kaleidoscope of opinions forms some groups of people with a “mix” of ideas that do not fit into strict ideological definitions.

That said, opinions on abortion and drugs have become a little harsher. Abortion is authorized by law in cases of rape and risk of death for the pregnant woman; by decision of the STF, also in the case of fetal anencephaly.

For 42%, the law should remain as it is, compared to 34% in 2018. Now there are fewer people who want a ban on abortion in any case: 35%, compared to 41% in 2018. Together, those who do not want change or want repression total is 77%; it was 75% in 2018.

For 52%, a woman who terminates a pregnancy, “regardless of the situation”, should go to jail. In 2013, the “year of the streets”, and in 2016, supporters of jail for women who abort were 64%. In 2007, they were minorities: 43%.

On the one hand, the wide variation in the willingness to monitor and punish indicates the possibility of debate and change. On the other hand, the fact that 77% are against changing the law or support a total ban puts Brazil close to countries where opposition to abortion is more extreme.

According to a 2022 Pew Research Center (USA) survey, support for abortion in “all or most” cases in Western European countries ranged from 74% (Spain) to 95% (Sweden). In Australia, 82%. Japan, 81%. South Korea, 68%. USA, 62%. India, 59%. Argentina, 53%. Mexico, 46%.

In the Pew survey, support for abortion in Brazil was 26%; rejection, 70%, close to Datafolha’s 77%. It was a rejection number closer to those in Kenya (89%) and Nigeria (92%), where human rights restrictions are fierce. In relation to less culturally distant countries, Brazil seems like an aberration.

People who place less importance on religion are more liberal about terminating pregnancy, according to the Pew survey. People on the left are more accepting of abortion than people on the right. In the USA, there is “polarization”, a large difference in acceptance of abortion between left and right (62 percentage points). In Western Europe, this difference is between 6 and 25 points. In Brazil, by just 17 points, as the left and right do not differ much in their opposition to abortion.

In Datafolha this March, 85% of Bolsonarists want the abortion law to remain as it is or change to a total ban; among PT members, it is not that different: 72%.

For 55% of evangelicals, women who have an abortion in any situation should go to jail; for Catholics, 56%. Poorer people and those with few years of school are more adept at prohibitions, but class differences are small. In the case of marijuana possession, 76% of Bolsonarists are against decriminalization; PT members, 59%; neutral, 67%. On the national average, 67%.

In short, there is a slight hardening of opinions on abortion and drugs. More importantly, opposition to liberal changes remains enormous, but class, rightism, leftism or conservatism don’t explain much about the issue. Anyone who is a fan of more light and tolerance should think about a debate in different terms.

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