Brazil’s Largest Newspaper Commits Major Journalistic Fraud to Boost Interim President Temer

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One of the looming mysteries during the last several months of Brazil’s political crisis (as The Intercept has repeatedly noted) has been the complete absence of polling data from the country’s largest media outlets and polling firms. The lower house voted on April 17 — more than three months ago — to send to the Senate impeachment charges against democratically elected President Dilma Rousseff, which resulted in the temporary installation of her vice president, Michel Temer, as “interim president.”


Since then, there had been no published polls from Datafolha — the polling firm used by Brazil’s largest newspaper, Folha de S.Paulo — asking Brazilians if they favor Dilma’s impeachment, if they favor the impeachment of Temer, and/or if they want new elections to choose a new president. The last Datafolha poll prior to the impeachment vote was on April 9, and it found that 60 percent favored Dilma’s impeachment, while 58 percent favored the impeachment of Temer. It also found that 60 percent wanted Temer to resign after Dilma was impeached, and 79 percent favored new elections once they both left.



Headline: Ibope poll shows that 62 percent prefer new presidential elections


The last poll from the other major firm, Ibope, was published on April 25, and it found that 62 percent wanted both Dilma and Temer to leave office and then new elections held; 25 percent wanted Dilma to remain and complete her term; and only 8 percent favored what has happened thus far: that Dilma is removed and Temer remains as president. Still, that poll — as bad as it was for Temer — was all the way back in April.


Incredibly, even though Temer was installed more than three months ago, the Senate is just weeks away from a final vote on Dilma’s impeachment, and the world’s eyes will be on Brazil when the Olympics begin in two weeks, there had been no new polls published — until this weekend. On Saturday, Folha de S.Paulo trumpeted a major new poll from Datafolha that was as surprising as it was positive for interim President Temer. It was also a radical departure from prior polls. The top headline promoted by Folha, which quite predictably went all over the country very quickly, announced that half of the country now wants Michel Temer to remain president through the end of what would have been the end of Dilma’s term in late 2018.


With the final impeachment vote imminent, that is an extremely significant finding: that 50 percent of Brazilians think it’s best for the country if Temer completes Dilma’s term. At least as significant was Folha’s claim that only 4 percent said they want neither Dilma nor Temer to stay, while only 3 percent want new elections. This was from Saturday’s lead online article:



Headline: For 50 percent of Brazilians, Temer should remain; 32 percent want Dilma to return


Poll graphic: What is best for the country?
Temer continues: 50 percent
Dilma returns: 32 percent
Neither of the two: 4 percent
Elections: 3 percent
Other responses: 2 percent
Don’t know: 9 percent


The paper also blasted this result on the front page of its Sunday print edition, the most-read edition of any newspaper in Brazil:



Highlighted paragraph: In politics, 50 percent advocate that Michel Temer remain as president, and 32 percent prefer the return of Dilma Rousseff.


Highlighted graphic: What would be best for the country? Temer continues: 50 percent; Dilma returns: 32 percent; Neither of the two: 4 percent; Elections: 3 percent; Other/don’t know: 11 percent


Not only was this result shocking given the widespread animus toward Temer revealed by prior polls, but it also made no sense on its own terms. To begin with, other Datafolha questions that asked who voters preferred to become president in 2018 showed that Temer was at only 5 percent, compared with the poll leader, former President Lula da Silva, who was between 21 and 23 percent, followed by Marina Silva at 18 percent. Moreover, only 14 percent approve of Temer’s new government (compared to 31 percent who strongly disapprove and 41 percent who are neutral). Beyond that, a full one-third of Brazilian voters can’t even name Temer as their current president. And, as one left-wing site noted in denouncing this latest polling headline from Folha as a “statistical fraud,” it is simply inconceivable that the percentage of Brazilians favoring new elections fell from 60 percent in April to 3 percent now, while the percentage wanting Temer to remain as president skyrocketed from 8 percent to 50 percent.


All of those facts made it extremely difficult to understand how Folha’s top-line headline — that 50 percent want Temer to remain as president through the completion of Dilma’s term – could possibly be true. It’s contrary to all known data. But Folha is the country’s largest paper; Datafolha is a reasonably credible polling firm; and they were unequivocal in their headline and lead graphic about this result. Despite all these obvious grounds for doubt, Folha did not publish the actual questions asked nor the underlying data with this article, so it was impossible to fact-check their claims.


As a resul