Juliana Oliveira is enjoying a life that seemed unimaginable during her childhood in Brazil’s poor northeast. She has two college degrees, a good salary at a multinational jeweler, and an apartment in this pricey, cosmopolitan city.
The 33-year-old, however, is rethinking her support of the ruling Workers’ Party in the October presidential elections. The party oversaw a decade of rapid economic growth that propelled millions like her into a growing middle class, but has been tainted by corruption, she said.
“Brazil has improved, but we can do much, much better,” said Ms. Oliveira, who voted for President Dilma Rousseff in 2010 but was also one of a million Brazilians who took to the streets last year to protest corruption and poor public services.
Ms. Oliveira personifies the rising expectations and sharper demands of Brazil’s expanding middle class, which now makes up 47% of the nation’s voters and about 55% of its population. Economists in Brazil refer to it as Class C, one of five income categories, from A to E, with A being the highest earners.
The rising demands of Class C are a big reason why the Workers’ Party, or PT, finds itself locked in a surprisingly difficult electoral battle with political upstart Marina Silva, the Socialist candidate who is in a technical tie with Ms. Rousseff in recent polls. Center-right candidate Aécio Neves is in third place.
“This is a new middle class that had access to consumer goods and credit and is grateful to PT governments,” said Mauro Paulino, director-general of Datafolha polling firm. “But now they want more.”