The most recent Brazilian presidential election between leftist Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva and far-right incumbent Jair Bolsonaro has left Brazil in a polarized state. Polarization is when the country is divided into two very contrasting groups with very contrasting sets of opinions and beliefs. This particular election has carried over to the soccer field in Brazil where former and current athletes weighed in on the election with their opinions.
When it comes to elections, specifically those classified as polarized, it has been said that, “even voters who value democracy will be willing to sacrifice fair democratic competition for the sake of electing politicians who champion their interests” and with that being said, “Polarization thus presents aspiring authoritarians with a structural opportunity: They can undermine democracy and get away with it” (Svolik, 2019). This means that people are willing to sacrifice their value of democracy so that they can elect a politician that shares their interests regardless of the fairness of the election. Polarization can be caused by social movements and other forms of social interaction. It has also been noted that football (soccer) and politics have long been interconnected dating back to the second World Cup which was held in 1934 (Ortellado & Ribeiro, 2022).
During the most recent election in Brazil, soccer players used social media to share their political views which impacted the votes of some of their viewers in turn creating more polarization throughout the country. This is an example of polarization, specifically affective polarization, because the polarization, or divide, between voters is stemming an individual’s identification with a political party (Druckman & Levendusky, 2019). For example, star soccer player, Neymar Jr. posted a TikTok sharing his support for reelection of Jair Bolsonaro. Other soccer stars such as Juninho Pernumbucano, Romário, and Bebeto shared their support of Jair Bolsonaro’s reelection by taking part in the campaigns and bringing together soccer and politics just before the Qatar World Cup (Wanjohi, 2022).
Both Bolsonaro and Lula used soccer and star athletes to help win over votes during the recent Brazilian presidential election. Considering that Brazil is the only national team to be present at every edition of the World Cup as well as the nation with the most titles, it should be inferred that members of the Brazilian national team would have influence over fans and their fans’ views on things like politics (Ortellado & Ribeiro, 2022). In particular, in support of Bolsonaro, athletes used his campaign slogans on their social media posts to help garner attention and more votes. In support of Lula, athletes such as Juninho Pernambucano used Twitter to share his support for Lula and Lula’s presidential campaign.
Nowadays, people are relying more and more on social media platforms as their main source for news and information. In Brazil, Facebook is one of the most favored social media platforms. It has been noted that, “52 percent of urban Brazilians consume their daily news on the site” and that, “Approximately 12 million Brazilian Facebook users interact with political pages on the platform” (Ortellado & Ribeiro, 2022). With this being said, it can be inferred that social media platforms are highly influential in terms of viewers forming opinions about things such as politics.
Even though the election is over and a president has been decided upon, the country of Brazil still remains polarized. Protestors of the outcome of the current election have been begging for military intervention and it is said that, “A recent poll shows that one in every four Brazilians says to be resentful with the yellow jersey because of politics” (Ortellado & Ribeiro, 2022). Based on this information, soccer doesn’t just affect politics but politics can have an effect on the soccer field. According to the article titled, “How football and politics are intertwined in a polarized post-election Brazil”, Fabio Victor tweeted that, “The end of the year approaches. We’re a few days aways of a World Cup. In another times, there would be euphoria and party everywhere. But the streets continue with a funeral mood. The country got so sick in these past four years that the convalescence will be long too, a sadness” (Ortellado & Ribeiro, 2022). Soccer is the most valued sport in Brazil and now fans are divided on whether they feel they can continue to support their favorite teams and athletes or whether they have to remain loyal to their political views regardless of what views star players are putting out on social media and whom they are supporting.
Druckman, J. N., & Levendusky, M. S. (2019). What do we measure when we measure affective
polarization? Public Opinion Quarterly, 83(1), 114–122.
Ortellado, P., & Ribeiro, M. M. (2022, October 16). Mapping Brazil’s political polarization online.
The Conversation. Retrieved November 21, 2022, from
Svolik, M. W. (2019). Polarization Versus Democracy. Journal of Democracy, 30.
Wanjohi, R. (2022, November 21). How football and politics are intertwined in a polarized
post-election Brazil. Global Voices. Retrieved November 21, 2022, from