Back to top

The Politics of Population in Brazil

The Politics of Population in Brazil
Elite Ambivalence and Public Demand

This book examines the attitudes toward population planning of Brazilian government officials and other elites—bishops, politicians, labor leaders, and business owners—in comparison with mass public opinion.

Series: Texas Pan American Series, Texas Pan American Series

February 1981
This is a print-on-demand title. Expedited shipping is not available.
$19.95
190 pages | 6 x 9 |
ISBN: 
978-0-292-74140-9
Description: 

The population of Brazil increased tenfold, from 10 to over 100 million, between 1880 and 1980, nearly half of this increase occurring since the end of World War II. The Politics of Population in Brazil examines the attitudes toward population planning of Brazilian government officials and other elites—bishops, politicians, labor leaders, and business owners—in comparison with mass public opinion. The authors' findings that elites seriously underestimate the desire for family planning services, while the public views birth control as a basic issue, represent an important contribution on a timely issue.

A major reason for this disparity is that the elites tend to define the issue as a matter of national power and collective growth, and the public sees it as a bread-and-butter question affecting the daily lives of families. McDonough and DeSouza document not only the real gulf between elite and mass opinion but also the propensity of the elites to exaggerate this gap through their stereotyping of public opinion as conservative and disinterested in family planning.

Despite these differences, the authors demonstrate that population planning is less conflict ridden than many other controversies in Brazilian politics and probably more amenable to piecemeal bargaining than some earlier studies suggest. In part, this is because attitudes on the issue are not closely identified with opinions regarding left-versus-right disputes. In addition, for the public in general, religious sentiment affects attitudes toward family planning only indirectly. This separation, which reflects the historical lack of penetration of Brazilian society on the part of the church, further attenuates the issue's potential for galvanizing deep-seated antagonisms. As the authors note, this situation stands in contrast to the fierce debates that moral issues have generated in Spain and Ireland.

The study is noteworthy not only for its original approach—the incorporation of mass and elite data and the departure from the standard concerns with fertility determinants in population—but also for its sophisticated methodology and lucid presentation.

Contents: 
  • Acknowledgments
  • 1. Overview
    • The Political Context of Population Policy in Brazil
    • Principal Themes
    • The Nature of the Evidence
    • Organization of the Analysis
  • 2. Elite Opinion
    • Recognition of and Priorities on Population Problems
    • Preferences on Birth Control
    • Mechanisms of Population Policy
    • Conclusion
  • 3. Public Opinion
    • Some Basic Concepts
    • The Salience of the Family Planning Issue
    • Contours of Opinion
    • The Determinants of Preferences on Family Planning and Divorce
    • Protoconstituencies for Family Planning
    • Conclusion
  • 4. Elite Perceptions
    • Interlite Perceptions
    • Elite Perceptions of Public Opinion
    • Conclusion
  • 5. Summing Up
  • Appendices
    • I. The Elite Sample
    • II. The Sample of Southeast Brazil
  • Notes
  • Bibliography
  • Index
Author: 

Peter McDonough is Emeritus Professor of Political Science at Arizona State University.

Amaury DeSouza received his Ph.D. in political science from Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He is a senior partner at MCM Consultores Associados.