About half of Brazilians are or have been either partisans or antipartisans. To what extent have these positive and negative partisan attitudes shaped voting behavior?
Every four years, on the same day in October, Brazilians cast ballots for president, senator, governor, federal deputy (members of the lower chamber of the national legislature), and state deputy (members of state legislatures). Scholars have already revealed a great deal about the factors that shape results of these elections. In presidential elections the incumbent government's provision of redistributive benefits seems to matter a great deal (Zucco 2013). In down-ticket elections candidates depend on their local name recognition, which is a function of their ability to “bring home the bacon” through pork-barrel politics, and on their own wealth and/or their personal connections to deep-pocketed sources of campaign finance, because candidates for all offices except president cannot rely on their party for funding (Ames 1995; Samuels 2002).
We also know that contextual factors matter. For example, aggregate economic performance is strongly related to outcomes in presidential elections. A strong economy boosted the PSDB's Fernando Henrique Cardoso to office in 1994 and helped Lula's reelection effort in 2006, while a weak economy undermined the PSDB candidate in 2002 (Mendes … Venturi 1995; Carreirão 1999, 2007). Campello and Zucco (2016) have even shown that Brazilian presidents’ popularity responds to international economic conditions, which they certainly cannot influence.
None of the foregoing factors are directly related to voters’ perceptions of candidates’ parties. To what extent does positive and/or negative partisanship also shape voters’ decisions, encouraging them to cast ballots for candidates only of “their” party – or to avoid casting ballots for the “other” party, across all levels of elections?
Consider Figure 5.1, which explores evaluation of government performance since 1989. In line with the notion that contextual factors matter, the data suggest most broadly that the state of the economy shapes presidential popularity. For example, President Cardoso's (1995–2002) approval went up as Brazil's economy stabilized early in his first term, but then plummeted as Brazil entered a recession circa 1998. The data also show declines in presidential evaluation as the economy entered a recession in 2014 under President Dilma, and during the crisis that led to the impeachment of President Collor in 1992.