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After the Deluge | Dilma and the Demonstration Effect

Source: CartaCapital

Headline: The Post-Demonstration Polls

CC has partnered with Coimbra’s Vox Populi to provide a third alternative to the usual pollmongers — the evil IBOPE and the no less fishy Datafolha. Marcos has a good track record in outguessing his colleagues. Here, he provides a sophisticated take on the political ramifications of the Brazilian Summer of Fighting in the Streets.

All things considered, Dilma remains the favorite. She haslost ground, but her likely adversaries did not gain any.

By  Marcos Coimbra

The erosion of support for Dilma Rousseff was intensified and accelerated by the June protestts.

In the recent levy of polls, one question stands out: What do they say about the presidential succession? The rest is secondary. Or better, it is only relevant insofar as it effects the fundamental isssue.

If we were not having an election a little over a year from now and the current president was not a candidate, questions about how the government and its policies are evaluated would be less relevant.

Everyone agrees that Dilma Rousseff was taken down a notch starting in early June.  In those polls, she received the unprompted support of 25%. In recent polls, this has fallen to 15%.

In the so-called “prompted vote” she scored between 50% and 58%, depending on her adversary. In the most recent polls, she receives 35% in the simulation of the first round and reaches, at best, 42% of votes in the second round.

We must remember that the predisposition to vote for the president fell between March and June. In the unprompted vote, she fell from 35% to 25%. The prompted vote fell from 60% to 50% in the simulation. That is to say, her chances of victory have declined, even though they remain fairly good.

In the most current polls, the decline was much more marked. The erosion of support intensified and was accelerated by the June protests.

It seems as though Dilma suffered a considerable loss in the intentions to vote because citizens  took to the streets, and not because of any dissatisfaction with Dilma or her government.

In other words, the protests were a cause, not an effect of the scale and the nature of discontent that current polls indicate (and are  reflected in her “nose dive” — a term the  mainstream media are fond of.)

Demonstration Effect

On one hand, the emergence of this dissatisfaction, which received extremely extensive (and favorable) coverage in the mainstream media has had what in sociology is known as  a “demonstration effect”.

It occurs when a a subject who reports an “acceptable” level off dissatisfaction starts to perceive this level of discontent as reason for indignation, even though he does not yet know exactly what he is indignant about


Some heterodox economists such as James Duesenberry and Robert H. Frank, following the original insights of Thorstein Veblen (1899), have argued that awareness of the consumption habits of others tends to inspire emulation in of these practices. Duesenberry (1949) gave the name “demonstration effect” (p. 27) to this phenomenon, arguing that it promoted unhappiness with current levels of consumption, which impacted savings rates and consequently opportunities for macroeconomic growth.

Similarly, Ragnar Nurkse (1953) argued that the exposure of a society to new goods or ways of living creates unhappiness with what had previously been acceptable consumption practices; he dubbed it the “international demonstration effect.”.

The logic of the effect resembles that of “moral panic!” — aconservative moralism amplified by digital echo chambers that seek to draw mass media and digital technology consumers into causes of various kinds,, often under the umbrella of youth movements.

Digital technology was made for and fooms large in  the role of manufacturing of the demonstration effect of diffuse, objectless indignation– and Steve Jobs is His messenger.

The primordial reason that the  demonstrations fulfilled this role was the impact and elevated sense of insecurity  they caused in common Brazilians. What provoked this effect were the images of brutal violence in a major Brazilian city.

No government can resist the daily repetition of death, blood, gunshots, rioting, looting, and arson fires. For three weeks, exactly during the period of the June and July surveys, Brazilian society saw all of this: on TV, on the Internet, on the radio, in the newspapers and magazines.

In other words, what actually undermined the evaluation of the government  (with its consequent impact on the intention to vote for Dilma) was not the “good side” of the demonstrations, which the media praised to the skies as they sang the national anthem wrapped in the flag, but their “bad side” — the street thugs and looters. Like a pair of conjoined twins, each depends upon the other.


moreover, if it is true that Dilma has declined in the ratings, it is also true that none of her adversaries gained any ground. OnlyMarina Silva displayed positive results.

Comparing the performance of Aécio Neves and  Eduardo Campos in the June and July surveys, we see that in the unprompted vote, neither has made progress: The Toucan has 4% and the  man from Pernambuco gas 1%. In the prompted survey, Aécio had 14% and there remained. Eduardo had 3% and rose to  4%.

Marina (who enjoys the favoritism of the rich) and the option to not vote picked up support. The aggregate of voters who say they will submit blank ballots or nullify their ballot on the voting machine, or  who say they will vote in no one or that they do not know, is stable at 5%.

Considering only the degree of indecision, the July results were equal to June’s, at 20% …

All things considered, Dilma remains the favorite, even considering the fact that these surveys did not catch her at her worst moment. She remains the front-runner, and is favored by such factors as time, the inertia of reelection and, as recent qualitative surveys show, continues to enjoy the support if those who feel it is still too early to judge her.

The only candidacy that progressed was that of someone the majority of the electorate views with sympathy, but who lacks the ability to occupy the presidency. Many admire Marina, but few are comfortable with entrusting her with the job.

As to the attempt to fabricate an opposition candidate at the last minute, the chances are slim, though they cannot be discarded. In 1989,for example, one month from the election, the right wing invented the candidacy of Silvio Santos.

Does it have another such candidate in its back pocket?