Polarization and Perceptions of Status Gain and Loss: The Case of Brazil

54 Pages Posted: 21 Mar 2024 Last revised: 18 Apr 2024

See all articles by David J. Samuels

David J. Samuels

University of Minnesota - Twin Cities - Department of Political Science

Fernando Mello

Carlos III-Juan March Institute of Social Sciences

Cesar Zucco

Getulio Vargas Foundation (FGV) - Brazilian School of Public and Business Administration (EBAPE)

Date Written: February 15, 2024

Abstract

Brazilian voters are deeply polarized between supporters and opponents of the Partido dos Trabalhadores (Workers’ Party -- PT). Although such polarization began to emerge before the PT rose to power in 2003, we suggest that support or opposition to policies that PT governments have enacted since then to ameliorate Brazil’s racial, gender, and socio-economic inequalities shape the divide that exists today. These policies, beyond just producing actual winners and losers, have triggered perceptions of status gains and losses. Using an original nationally representative survey tailored to probe status perceptions, we show that Brazilians who perceive status gains for themselves as well as for “people like them” are more likely to be PT partisans, while those who perceive status losses are more likely to oppose the party. We further tie status perceptions to polarization by showing that positive and negative partisanship are tightly linked to attitudes about welfare deservingness, racial resentment, and gender hostility, which reflect approval of or hostility towards perceived winners and losers of PT policies. Our findings provide novel insight into the importance of perceptions of status gain as well as loss as sources of partisan polarization in the Brazilian case, and contribute to our general understanding of the politics of resentment.

Keywords: partisanship, negative partisanship, polarization, Brazil, petismo, antipetismo, status gains, status losses

Suggested Citation

Samuels, David J. and Mello, Fernando and Zucco, Cesar, Polarization and Perceptions of Status Gain and Loss: The Case of Brazil (February 15, 2024). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=4727821 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.4727821

David J. Samuels

University of Minnesota - Twin Cities - Department of Political Science ( email )

Minneapolis, MN 55455-0410
United States

HOME PAGE: http://www.polisci.umn.edu/~dsamuels/

Fernando Mello

Carlos III-Juan March Institute of Social Sciences ( email )

HOME PAGE: http://www.fernandobmello.com

Cesar Zucco (Contact Author)

Getulio Vargas Foundation (FGV) - Brazilian School of Public and Business Administration (EBAPE) ( email )

Praia de Botafogo 190
Rio de Janeiro, RJ
Brazil

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