Beyond Bolsonaro and Lula: How Brazil’s Evangelicals Should Vote

Five Christian leaders weigh the factors they hope are guiding the church as it prepares for the October presidential election.

Since the start of Brazil’s 2022 presidential election, national and international electoral news has focused on the role that faith will play in next month’s race—and for good reason: Religious concerns have dominated the talking points of both Jair Bolsonaro’s and Luiz Inácio (“Lula”) da Silva’s campaigns. Whether it’s discussing COVID-19 church closures or the spiritual fight between good and evil, the candidates have seemingly preferred to prioritize these issues at the expense of others such as unemployment, inflation, climate change, or foreign policy.

According to political analysts, the candidates are betting, especially Bolsonaro, that the most-responsive electorate are evangelicals. The data backs him up. Nearly half of evangelicals (48%) say they’ll vote for Bolsonaro, compared to only a quarter (26%) for Lula, according to a late-August poll from the Inteligência em Pesquisa e Consultoria (IPEC). A Datafolha poll from mid-September shows similar numbers: 49 percent of evangelicals say they’ll vote for Bolsonaro compared to 32 percent for Lula. Evangelicals make up about 25–30 percent of the country’s total electorate.

While the evangelical universe in Brazil is multifaceted, evangelical pastors hold significant sway over their congregations. Roughly speaking, it is possible to say that a group of pastors who have no problem offering political opinions from the pulpit have strongly influenced a significant portion of evangelical voters. The media has picked up on this as well, to the point of modifying the catch phrase voto de cabresto (“voting by halter”), where leaders guide people’s political decisions, to voto …

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