Public Opinion & the Brazil Infrastructure Agenda

In Ipsos’ first annual global poll around infrastructure, Brazilians showed more discontent with their national infrastructure than did citizens of any of the 27 other countries surveyed – and by a significant margin. Despite the widespread level of dissatisfaction (62%), however, only 7% of Brazilians listed infrastructure as a priority, trailing far behind economic issues like unemployment and jobs (53%). So how can we bring infrastructure to the top of the public mind? Let’s explore further.

Economic priorities such as unemployment and jobs are at the top of the public’s mind in Brazil. When linked to high-order priorities, especially job creation, the argument for investment in infrastructure is strong. It’s even stronger when linked to job creation than long-term economic growth! This indicates that what Brazilians want most is immediate delivery of jobs, which can be achieved with investment in infrastructure.

So what do Brazilians actually associate “investment in infrastructure” with? Our poll reveals that people associate it with things like public works, schools, roads, sewerage, and railways – essentially concrete projects. However, the government is still seen as the primary stakeholder in public infrastructure projects, and political parties and the government have extremely low credibility ratings (9% and 13%, respectively), per the November 2016 Ipsos Global @dvisor poll. Additionally, the public perceives the infrastructure industry as a whole to be very corrupt (Ipsos Brazil Pulso Poll).

What do we do in such a low credibility environment? A majority of Brazilians believe that local communities should be consulted on infrastructure plans, even if it entails delays in project execution. Citizens want to have a say in the process. Transparency is also key to closing the credibility gap. Therefore, politicians and construction companies should be transparent and include local citizens in the infrastructure project planning process.

More broadly, public opinion towards infrastructure and public officials must be considered within a larger context of general discontent with the political and economic system. Perceptions in Brazil mirror global attitudes, which include strong rising anti-system and populist beliefs. No different from citizens of many other countries, Brazilians widely believe that the system is broken. This creates an environment ripe for appeal from an outsider candidate during the 2018 presidential election. Traditional Brazilian politicians need to be mindful of this climate and act accordingly.