Economy and customs affect Lula’s popularity among Catholics

Economy and customs affect Lula’s popularity among Catholics


The reduction in popularity of President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva (PT) among Catholics indicates that dissatisfaction with the PT member already goes beyond opposition voters and reaches the government’s own base. The inflation recorded in food and Lula’s position on abortion may be indicators that help explain the distance between the religious segment and the PT member.

The drop recorded by the DataPoder survey, published on Sunday (31), is significant: 52% of Catholics say that the PT member is “better” than former president Jair Bolsonaro (PL). In January of this year, the percentage was 59%, a drop of seven percentage points. Those who consider it “worse” totaled 34%, previously it was 33%. Those who consider it “equal” went from 6% to 13%.

The data was collected between March 23rd and 25th through cell phone calls. There were 2,500 interviews in 202 municipalities in the 27 federation units. The margin of error is 2 percentage points. The confidence interval is 95%.

Since the beginning of the year, Lula has seen his popularity fall after food prices put pressure on citizens’ pockets. According to the Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics (IBGE), this year alone, in January and February, the increase in food prices reached 2.95% – more than double the figure recorded by the Broad National Consumer Price Index (IPCA) . In March, the index rose 0.36%.

For experts heard by People’s Gazettethe drop in approval among Catholics may signal that the range of dissatisfaction with the government may be consistently widening, which includes groups that until now have remained more tolerant in relation to changes in the economic scenario.

“The president’s degree of dissatisfaction went beyond ideological boundaries and is already being felt among those who circumstantially supported Lula on his return for his third term. They, in some way, had greater hopes of improving their living conditions during this new administration, especially due to what happened during Lula’s first term”, said Elton Gomes, professor at the Federal University of Piauí (UFPI).

In his assessment, the behavior recorded by the survey indicates frustration on the part of a part of the electorate who, like other voters, had hope for faster economic improvement.

Political scientist Adriano Cerqueira, from Ibmec in Belo Horizonte, stated that the sample of discontented Catholics that was portrayed in the survey could indicate a general disenchantment with the government. “But the president is in the second year of his term and it is still possible to reverse this. The issue is that Lula’s main action is in the economic area and the government is becoming increasingly limited in its spending capacity, as the indicators are bad”, explains political scientist Adriano Cerqueira, from Ibmec in Belo Horizonte.

Customs agenda also weighs on Lula’s popularity

Unlike his first terms, Lula was more open to accepting that his government invested in progressive agendas contrary to the Catholic public. The technical note issued by the Ministry of Health in February, which abolished the distinction between abortion and early birth, was a case that generated strong friction with the Catholic community.

The National Conference of Brazilian Bishops (CNBB) and the Catholic Parliamentary Front of the Chamber of Deputies pressured the government for the document to be overturned, which ended up happening two days after its publication. However, the wear and tear was felt by the government.

Commenting on this aspect, political scientist Elton Gomes said that, although the Catholic population is reducing over the years, it is still an important electoral asset. “For statistical purposes, Protestants are mostly right-wing and more conservative. Catholics behave differently, despite voting with the left. He also falls into the category of undecided voter, one who can change his vote for a certain reason, such as the candidates’ actions”, said the political scientist.

For political analyst Luan Sperandio, Operations Director of Ranking of Politicians, the repercussion made by the opposition regarding the Lula government’s positions may also explain the increase in weariness among the Catholic public.

“Today, voters want to feel that their representative shares their values, and there is a high degree of conservatism in Brazilians’ worldview, which creates a challenge for the Lula government for this public. And, certainly, a wearing factor is the action of the opposition, which has known how to exploit this battlefield efficiently, engaging much more than government allies, especially when the issue is related to customs”, said Sperandio.

Left used Liberation Theology to get closer to the Church

The disagreement over the customs agenda between the Catholic Church and the left raises the following question: why do Catholics vote for Lula? The relationship may have originated in the 70s, when the Military Regime was in force in the country.

At the time, Liberation Theology began to be disseminated in Catholic circles and preached the resolution of social conflicts through the Marxist vision of class struggle. The Basic Ecclesiastical Communities (CEBs), groups linked to Liberation Theology, were vital for the left-wing ideology to be disseminated in the religious segment. Furthermore, they participated in the creation of the Workers’ Party in the 1980s.

As the country was going through political and economic difficulties, the left knew how to take advantage of the situation to impose the discourse of class struggle within the religious environment, according to analysts. In other words, some of the clerics took a stand against the bureaucratic establishment that dominated at the time with the discourse of trying to correct social inequalities.

For historian Alex Catharino, member of the Brazilian Institute of Law and Religion, the electoral position of the Catholic public is closely linked to the ideologization of the clergy over the years.

“Unfortunately, the influence on the Catholic vote is due to the fact that a significant portion of the bishops, as well as many priests, have a mentality formed in the Marxist structures of the erroneous sociological method of Liberation Theology, contrary to the Christocentric anthropological perspective that Saint John Paul II and Benedict XVI tried to rescue him”, said the historian.

Lula goes on trips to regain his popularity

Seeking to reverse the drop in popularity, Lula will hold a series of agendas outside Brasília (DF) this first week of April. The trips are for delivery and advertising of works. The destinations are strategic: Rio de Janeiro, Pernambuco and Ceará. The first, visited by Lula this Tuesday (2), is Bolsonaro’s electoral stronghold and will have deputy Alexandre Ramagem (PL) as a pre-candidate for the October election.

Lula attended Rio de Janeiro and participated in the inauguration of the Institute of Pure and Applied Mathematics (IMPA), in Niterói. She was also present at the beginning of the dredging works from Guanabara Bay to the Port of Niterói.

On Thursday (4), the president will participate in the launch of the Água Bruta Ipojuca pumping station and the Belo Jardim-Caruaru section of the Agreste Pernambucano Aductor, in Arcoverde (PE). After the event, he heads to Goiana (PE), where he will participate in the inauguration of the Hemo-8r Medicines Factory, from Hemobrás.

On Friday (5), the agenda is in Iguatu (CE), where the president will sign the service order for the implementation of the Salgado branch. A visit to the Transnordestina Railway works is also planned.

The itineraries also represent a change in priority for Palácio do Planalto. In 2023, Lula ended the year with trips to 24 countries. In total, the PT member spent 75 days outside Brazil. With the municipal elections, the government understands that it is necessary to focus the PT member’s presence on agendas within the country.

Assessing the president’s strategy, Sperandio states that the Planalto seeks to regain the space of power lost in the last elections. The party led by Gleisi Hoffmann (PT) did not elect a capital mayor.

“After spending the first year of his term very focused on the external agenda, Lula is once again traveling and looking more at the country because he has his eye on the 2024 elections. We will see the president as a relevant electoral leader for allies, and being physically closer is symbolic at a strategic moment for the PT’s attempt to regain political power and space”, said the analyst.


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