The Electoral Behavior of the Poor in Brazil: A Research Agenda

Some deem the Bolsa Família program (BF) in Brazil to be a quintessentially clientelistic tool, thought to have produced colossal sociodemographic transformations in the base of support of President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, particularly in the 2006 election. An earlier article (Bohn 2011) maintained that significant changes in Lula’s electoral base took place prior to his reelection; other social policies, such as the Benefício de Prestação Continuada, contributed significantly to the changes in Lula’s camp; and, most important, that the link between the receipt of social benefits and vote is less straightforward than those who view Bolsa Família as a clientelistic program assume it to be. This work addresses some of the criticisms that the article received and reinforces the need for further research that uses individual-based data to disentangle the complexity of the electoral behavior of the poor in highly unequal societies.