At least 70 million of Brazil’s 121 million voters are illiterate or failed to complete primary school, according to statistics from the Federal Election Court (TSE) and the Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics (IBGE).
According to University of Brasília professor Lucia Avelar, the low educational level of the country’s electorate explains the gap that exists between candidates and most of the country’s voters.
During a debate at the International Conference on Challenges and Prospects for Strengthening Brazilian Political Institutions, which ended, Thursday, August 11, in the Chamber of Deputies, Avelar emphasized the need to reduce the “castes” that exist in Brazil as a way to reduce the inequalities among voters.
“We must distinguish between public opinion and the electorate. Public opinion has access to information and the candidates’ proposals. The electorate, on the other hand, is an uninformed mass and shifts direction when it perceives that a candidate appears eager to improve the lives of the poor,” she observed.
Avelar called for the construction of collective identities for Brazilian society. She believes that this provides a way to insert the population into the country’s political discussions. In her opinion, the objective of political reform is to change the status quo of the electorate, which is segregated by levels of education.
For the president of the Federal Election Court (TSE), Minister Carlos Velloso, voters with little schooling are easily influenced by the mass media and absorb the views presented in the media without criticism or reflection.
“It is a segment that is easy to influence: it absorbs information conveyed by the radio or television and doesn’t have access to newspapers,” he pointed out.
In this sense, Velloso criticized instruments of popular consultation, such as plebiscites and referendums, since the population is incapable of reflecting on the issues that are presented.
“We have to gird these instruments with certain safeguards. The instrument can produce a vote contrary to what is ideal. In France, recently, the French population rejected the European Constitution in a referendum. They were afraid that poor people from Eastern Europe would invade France. This rejection was not noble, may the French forgive me,” Velloso commented.