Bolsa Família and the Shift in Lula’s Electoral Base, 2002–2006: A Reply to Bohn
Abstract

In a recent article published in the Latin American Research Review, Simone Bohn analyzed electoral results and survey data from Brazil to contest several theses concerning the reelection of President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva in 2006. In particular, Bohn asserted that beneficiaries of Bolsa Família, a conditional cash transfer program that was reaching eleven million families at the time of the 2006 election, were already supporters of Lula in 2002, and therefore the program could not have contributed to the change in Lula’s constituency between his election in 2002 and his reelection in 2006. We show that these claims are based on voter recall data collected between nine and fifty-seven months after the elections, and that these data grossly overestimate actual electoral support for Lula—probably as a result of well-known reporting biases. Reanalysis of Bohn’s data as well as analysis of more reliable surveys suggest that there were indeed significant changes in voting patterns between 2002 and 2006, and that Bolsa Família did play an important role in the 2006 elections.


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