Assessing the Strength of Pentecostal Churches’ Electoral Support: Evidence from Brazil

Fábio Lacerda


Since the 1980s, the number of Pentecostal candidates elected to the Brazilian legislatures has grown remarkably. Literature has argued that the phenomenon is related to Pentecostal churches’ support for particular candidates. To date, however, this claim has been based only on ethnographies or studies relying on a few cases of elected candidates. Drawing from a new data set of Evangelical (Protestant) candidates for the Federal Chamber of Deputies and state legislative assemblies, I try to answer the following questions: Do Pentecostal candidates raise fewer campaign resources than other candidates? What is the effect of being a Pentecostal candidate on the vote in Brazilian legislative elections? Is the structure of the church relevant to this effect? Using OLS regression models, I show that being a Pentecostal has a negative, though not significant effect on campaign spending. Additionally, there is a positive statistical relationship between being a Pentecostal and receiving votes, and between having the support of more centralized churches and receiving votes. Qualitative evidence of six Pentecostal politicians who lost their churches’ support at some point between elections, attempted reelection, and performed considerably worse than before reinforces the importance of having the support of a Pentecostal church.

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