Brazil Political Culture
Many aspects of Brazil's political system may be explained by its
political culture , the origins of which may be found in traditional
rural society during the colonial
and independence periods through 1930. This political culture evolved
into three styles of politics. Under the more traditional style
of politics, coronelismo, the local coronel (colonel), in alliance
with other large farmers, controlled the votes of rural
workers and their families. The local political chiefs in turn
exchanged votes with politicians at the state level in return for
political appointments and public works in their municipalities
migration increased after 1930, a transitional style of clientelistic
politics emerged in medium-size and large-size cities. Under this
system, neighborhood representatives of urban politicians would
help recent migrants resolve their problems in exchange for votes.
These representatives were usually from "clientele professions,"
such as medical doctors, dentists, and pharmacists.
The third style of mass politics involved a direct populist appeal
to the voter by the politician, without formal intermediation by
clientelism or domination by coronelismo . Research in the early
1990s revealed that in most cases voter decision making has been
influenced by a mixture of the second and third styles, as well
as by peer groups, opinion leaders, and television soap operas (telenovelas
Polling results since the early 1970s have revealed changing public
opinion concerning the relative merits of military government versus
democracy. For example, the proportion of Brazilians favorable to
government decreased from 79 percent in 1972 to 36 percent in
1990. Moreover, 70 percent of Brazilians agreed in 1990 that the
government should not use troops against striking workers, as compared
with only 7 percent in 1972. In a March 1995 poll conducted by the
Datafolha agency, however, only 46 percent of Brazilians responded
that "democracy is always preferred over dictatorship,"
as compared with 59 percent endorsing the same proposition in March
1993. The relatively low crime rates during the military period
may be a factor in the shift in public opinion regarding democracy.
Brazil has a diversity of regional political cultures. Politics
in the states of the Northeast
(Nordeste) and North (Norte) are much more dependent on political
benevolence from Brasília than are the states of the
South (Sul) and Southeast (Sudeste). Because Brazil's southernmost
Grande do Sul, suffered three civil wars and was involved frequently
in political conflicts in the Río de la Plata areas, its
population holds strong political loyalties. As a result, the Liberal
Front Party (Partido da Frente Liberal--PFL) and the PSDB have very
limited penetration in Rio Grande do Sul. Both parties are considered
traitors: the PFL had splintered from the military regime's Democratic
Social Party (Partido Democrático Social--PDS) in 1984, and
the PSDB had broken from the Brazilian Democratic Movement Party
(Partido do Movimento Democrático Brasileiro--PMDB) in 1988.
In the Southeast state of Minas
Gerais, politics is conducted in a very cautious, calculated
manner. Politicians there are known for their ability to negotiate
and cut bargains, and they have political "adversaries"
rather than enemies. In the western frontier states, politics is
constantly evolving, because of the continuous inward migration
from other regions. Most politicians and voters are newcomers with
no local political roots or traditions.
The Southeast states of
Rio de Janeiro and São
Paulo have received large influxes of rural-urban and north-south
migration since the 1950s. Because of higher levels of industrialization,
per capita income, labor union membership, and education, the level
of political consciousness is higher in these states than in those
to the north and west.
As a result of intense rural-urban migration since 1960, urban
voters have increased from fewer than 30 percent to more than 70
percent of the population in 1994. In 1960 only 22 percent (15.5
million) of Brazil's population was registered to vote; by 1994
more than 60 percent (nearly 95 million) of the population was enfranchised.
The new migrants to urban areas quickly enhanced their political
consciousness through television, increased schooling, and membership
in new associations, such as labor unions.
Data as of April 1997