Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, 77, is savoring a popularity rise eight months after he took office in Brazil and overcame a coup attempt a week later. Sixty percent of Brazilians approve of his work as president — the highest level of this third term — compared to 35% who do not approve. That’s according to a Genial/Quaest survey released on Wednesday. The rise in support is due to the economic situation in Brazil, which the country views with optimism. This has eased resistance against Lula in the south of the country and among evangelical voters — two groups that overwhelmingly supported his rival, former president Jair Bolsonaro, in the 2022 elections.
The survey results indicate that Lula’s approval rating has risen four points since the last poll was released two months ago. His disapproval rating has also fallen five points. These levels of support are a relief for the president, who has just hosted a major summit on the Amazon and presented his grand investment plan.
Lula is also keeping up a busy international agenda that will take him next week to Africa. On Wednesday, he had a 30-minute phone conversation with U.S. President Joe Biden, in which he spoke about the need for developed countries to accept their responsibilities for climate change and to support developing economies facing the consequences of the climate emergency, according to a press release.
The president has also announced an ambitious package of public and private works that intends to inject $350 billion into the economy. When presenting the plan, Lula said the time for ministers to come up with new ideas was over, and now it was time to start fulfilling promises. Some experts have questioned the consistency of the growth acceleration program, as it does not fully clarify the origin of the funds or the plan’s priorities.
Wednesday’s survey revealed less support for the federal government, but also lower disapproval ratings. While 60% approve of Lula, compared to 35%, 42% of respondents said they approved of the government’s performance, while 29% replied that it was regular and 24% that it was poor.
Support for the leader of the Workers’ Party (PT) in the south of Brazil — which is whiter and richer than the rest of the country — also rose by 11 points. It is now close to the national average. This area of Brazil is Bolsonaro territory, but Lula’s Safra (Harvest) plan to support farmers appears to have had an effect. Bolsonaro, meanwhile, is keeping a low profile as the media reveals new details about allegations that his close associates tried to sell off expensive gifts that were given to him when he was in office.
The economy has not given Lula any trouble since he took office. A program that he launched to encourage the negotiation of debts with banks has been welcomed by the millions of families trapped in the red. Unemployment is around 9%, although there are around 40 million workers in the informal sector (in a country with 203 million inhabitants). In the first quarter, GDP rose by 4% compared to the same period last year.
And among evangelicals, a group that typically votes en bloc, there are more Lula supporters (50%) than opponents (46%) for the first time. However, there is only a small difference between the two, and the percentage of evangelicals who approve of Lula is still well below the national average. Leaders of the main evangelical denominations formed a political alliance with Bolsonaro. Lula is trying to erode this as he seeks to broaden his parliamentary support in an effort to secure a majority in Congress, which is now dominated by Bolsonaro’s supporters. Although Brazilian lawmakers are always willing to negotiate, there is always a price to pay.
Lula’s current popularity figures are far from what they were in his previous mandates. When the first working-class president of Brazil left power in 2010, his approval rating was over 80% — a figure he often points out. None of Lula’s predecessors or successors have reached anywhere near that level. When he left office, it was impossible to predict the wave of anti-Lula sentiment that would sweep across the country, fueled by Bolsonaro and his followers. Nor could anyone have foreseen that Lula would end up behind bars before making a just as unexpected political comeback.
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