No Country for Criminals: Understanding Support for Iron Fist Candidates in Brazil

Graduate Research Grant
Grant Year

In 2018, then-candidate Jair Bolsonaro and allies were swept to power with the slogan “the only good criminal is a dead criminal”. Which groups of voters are attracted to such violent “iron fist” statements, and what are the implications for the strength and quality of democratic governance? I propose to field two survey experiments in Brazil to investigate these questions. First, I will present respondents with a candidate choice experiment where they must select between two hypothetical candidates. This experiment will estimate the impact that iron fist messaging has on the support that a candidate can expect from voters, and which groups support them the most. Second, I will field an experiment in collaboration with fellow Kellogg Doctoral Affiliate Luiz Vilaça that investigates whether perceptions of endemic corruption in government trigger support for candidates who promise to bring discipline to all areas of society, not just the corrupt politicians.