We looked at the history of support for government positions in Brazil’s House of Representatives from january 2003 to december 2018. We wanted to have a better understanding of the relationship between smaller parties and the federal government.
In Brazilian politics, there’s a word called “fisiologismo”, used to describe politicians that tend to side with the party in power regardless of ideological positions of worldviews, getting benefits and powerful cabinet positions.
Our visual narrative shows just that: apart from the historically bigger contenders, PT and PSDB, most of the political parties tend to rally around the federal government, even when it changes hands and moves drastically through the ideological spectrum.
The data visualization also allows to see “waves” of unusual political behavior. In the early 2000s, the opposition worked together with the federal government to pass economic reforms that were unpopular with the parties that were officially allied to the president, for instance. It also shows clearly how Dilma Rousseff’s hold on Congress slowly diminished since he was first elected until her impeachment, in 2016.
What makes this project innovative?
In short, we found a way to quantify and measure a concept that is used anecdotally in the Brazilian political debate – “fisiologismo”, or the omnipresent notion that even ideologically opposed parties tend to gravitate towards the wants and needs of the federal government, regardless of who is in power. This sort of quantitative analysis is still uncommon in Brazilian media and academia. The data visualization is also interesting for showing (with some dramatic charts!) how the political landscape changed drastically in recent years. The “waves” of support and dissent offer an easy-to-understand graphic metaphor for abstract concepts that are often difficult for the reader to grasp.
What was the impact of your project? How did you measure it?
The story received praise from media professionals and researchers alike. It was released in the same day that a new legislature took office and helped promote a discussion about how likely is that president Bolsonaro – who brands itself as an outsider and disregards traditional political negotiations – gets support needed for the reforms he promised to implement. In the process of reporting the story, we also developed a public wrapper for the House of Representatives API which, although still in early development, can become an useful tool for making similar analysis in a regular basis.
Source and methodology
The data comes from the Open Data Portal of the Chamber of Deputies and was collected through the institution's API. We made queries to gather every individual vote cast in the House between January 1, 2003 and December 31, 2018. When the leader of the government did not register an orientation for supporters to follow, the related data was discarded. We considered that a vote is favorable to the government only if it follows exactly the determination of the leader. For example, if the determination is to vote "yes", only the "yes" votes of a party will be counted. All others ("no", "obstruction" or "abstention") are considered to be votes against the government - although in specific situations they may have been beneficial to the ruling party intentions. The code used for data collection and analysis can be found on our page in GitHub, which is available in the related links section.
Python for data collection and analysis. D3.js and Adobe Illustrator for data visualization.
Rodrigo Menegat - data, story writing and infographics Bruno Ponceano - infographics