THE EFFECT OF SOCIAL MEDIA ON VOTING BEHAVIOUR IN NIGERIA (A CASE STUDY OF SELECTED VOTERS IN LAGOS)
This study was intended to determine the effect of social media on voter’s behaviour in Lagos State. This study was guided by the following objectives; To find out if social media influences voter behaviour in Lagos State, To determine the influence social media has on voter behaviour in Lagos state, To find out other factors that influence voter behaviour in Lagos state.
The study employed the descriptive survey design; questionnaires in addition to library research were applied in order to collect data. Primary data were used. The simple percentage method was the analytical tool used. The respondents under the study were 150 respondents form the local government area of Lagos State. The study findings revealed that Social media influences the voter behaviour in Lagos state and can affect their decision and judgment about the choice of whom to be voted for. Social media passes across fast and transparent information to voters in Lagos State which has exposed corrupt practices in the democratic process boosting the citizen confidence about the process. False information and negative sentiments posted on the social media can influence voter’s behaviour.
The outcome of the study will help beam the searchlight on the impact of social media on voter’s behaviour, the decisions they make and elections as a whole based on the information available to voters on the internet.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
Title Page - - - - - - - - - i
Approval Page - - - - - - - - ii
Declaration - - - - - - - - iii
Dedication - - - - - - - - - iv
Acknowledgement - - - - - - - v
Abstract - - - - - - - - - vi
Table of Contents - - - - - - - vii
CHAPTER ONE – INTRODUCTION
1.1 Background of the Study - - - - -
1.2 Statement of General Problem - - - -
1.3 Objective of the Study - - - - - -
1.4 Research Questions - - - - - -
1.5 Hypothesis - - - - - - - - -
1.6 Significance of the Study - - - - -
1.7 Scope of the Study - - - - - -
1.8 Definition of Terms - - - - - -
CHAPTER TWO – REVIEW OF RELATED LITERATURE
2.0 Introduction - - - - - - - - -
2.1 Theoretical Framework - - - - - - -
2.2Conceptual Framework - - - - - - -
2.3Review of Related Literature - - - - - - -
CHAPTER THREE – RESEARCH METHODOLOGY
3.1 Research Design - - - - - - - -
3.2 Population of Study - - - - - - - -
3.5 Sample size and Sampling Techniques - - - - -
3.6 Instrument for Data Collection - - - - - -
3.7 Validity of the Instrument - - - - - - -
3.8 Reliability of the Instrument - - - - - -
3.9 Method of Data Collection - - - - - - -
3.10 Method of Data Analysis - - - - - - -
CHAPTER FOUR – DATA PRESENTATION AND ANALYSIS
4.0 Introduction - - - - - - - - -
4.1 Data Presentation and Analysis - - - - - -
4.2 Characteristics of the Respondents - - - - -
4.3 Data Analysis - - - - - - - - -
4.4 Testing Hypothesis - - - - - - - -
4.5 Summary of Findings - - - - - - - -
4.6 Discussion of Findings - - - - - - -
CHAPTER FIVE – SUMMARY, CONCLUSION AND RECOMMENDATION
5.0 Introduction - - - - - - - - -
5.1 Summary - - - - - - - - - -
5.2 Conclusion - - - - - - - - - -
5.3 Recommendations - - - - - - - -
References - - - - - - - - - -
Appendix - - - - - - - - - -
BACKGROUND OF THE STUDY
The advent of internet and technology has exposed majority of the global population to different interactive platforms on which different kinds of information is exchanged which might significantly have effect on human behaviour, decision and judgment (CES, 2012). Social media are new information network and information technology using a form of communication utilizing interactive and user-produced content, and interpersonal relationships are created and maintained. The emergence of the Internet as the new mass medium of the 21st century now changes the mass media substantially. Information can be distributed at high speed, low cost, and broad scope and as a result, there is egalitarian access to the production and the consumption of news (Prat and Strömberg, 2011)
Today’s social media has made the world a “global village”, with the quick transfer of information overriding the challenges of time and distance (Friedman, 2007). Social media’s has gradually become one of the important means of influencing the society and this influence is based exclusively on its social aspects of interaction and participation. As social media gains more popularity and scope, its impact on voters’ political and cultural perceptions cannot be underestimated as social media practically influences the way users interact, communicate and make decisions on social, cultural, and political issues in today’s world.
Voting behavior is a form of political behavior exhibited by electorates which can be influenced by a lot of factors ranging from emotional, ethnicity, religion leading them to make certain decisions. Various factors such as gender, race, culture or religion go a long way in affecting the way a voter behaves and the decision he makes as regards selection of a candidate of his choice. However, key external factors may also influence a voter’s behaviour such as political socialization, socio-cultural views, tolerance of diverse political views and the media, internet inclusive. The effect of these influences on voting behavior is dependent on attitudes, beliefs, knowledge and the source of available information to the voter.
The social media has become a powerful medium which may affect voting behavior because of its potential to provide direct and cheap access to the production and consumption of current information at any part of the world without editorial filtering (Sunstein, 2001). Not only do social media provide information about political affiliations, candidates and their party manifestoes, it also provides a platform through which voters across cultural divides can relate and interact with themselves on issues about these candidates.
As evidenced by the recent March 28th Presidential elections in Nigeria, political parties, including the two prominent parties took to social media platforms such as online networking sites, blogs, mobile newspapers, news ads, etc. to campaign and mobilize not only youths but all class of internet users to vote for them. This brought about a variety of interesting news and drama online providing opportunity for users to read, respond, interact, argue and trash out issues online. Twitter, facebook, blogs, online newspapers etc. became platforms for people to air their thoughts on various candidates, and sway others towards their line of thinking with various debates, hashtags and online campaigns. This brought all Nigerians together irrespective of political divide, ethnicity and religion on national issues.
Nearly every political party in the country used social media to campaign and advance its plans, message and manifestoes to supporters including advertising, mobilization and organizing in all the states of the federation, and even fundraising. Facebook, YouTube and especially Twitter were used to let voters know how each party or particular candidate felt about important national issues ranging from security to power. Hence social media became powerful enough to influence voter decisions and choices as many voters who had fixed their minds and conscience on voting a particular party or candidate began to change their minds based on certain information or idea they got online about the party or candidate. Information gotten by a particular voter was also not static, as the same voter would use several internet tools and buttons to broadcast same message to other voters like him through medium such as blogs, facebook, Nairaland, chat rooms etc. in order to influence them.
1.2 STATEMENT OF THE PROBLEM
The use of emotional appeals in political campaigns to increase support for a candidate or decrease support for a challenger is a widely recognized practice and a common element of any campaign strategy (Brader, T. 2006). Campaigns often seek to instill positive emotions such as zeal and hopefulness about their candidate to improve turnout and political activism while seeking to raise fear and anxiety about the opposition. Zeal tends to reinforce preference for the candidate and party, while fear and anxiety interrupt voter behavioral patterns and leads individual voters to look for new sources of information on divergent political issues (Marcus et al, 2000). Sources of information available to a voter vary widely including the traditional media, TV, radio and newspapers. However, with the advent of online social media forum, most voters can access information, debate on the information and also give feedback on his own views, opinions and expectations from the party and candidate.
Although the social media has helped in increasing the popularity of candidates and their parties, it has the capacity to make or mar their chances and voter’s perception of the party or candidates. Rumors, falsehood, propaganda and derogatory information about individual candidates or parties are commonplace online and spread faster than anticipated, often with disastrous outcomes. This is largely attributed to the lack of editorial filtering, and the anonymity of most online users. The internet encourages anonymity of its users, which means that those who write and comment often use nicknames or aliases. Hence, anonymity provides an excellent opportunity for writing false stories or spreading rumors about candidates and their parties and this often leads to rancor fear and anxiety about the opposition party.
This has a huge influence on voter behaviour, as most voters who read stories online have a tendency to believe such stories without crosschecking facts and take decisions based on this propaganda. This is a widely known fact among political parties and they use it to their advantage in bringing down their opponents. Previous research has found that it is possible to influence a person' attitudes toward a political candidate using carefully crafted information about such candidate online, which in turn may influence the voter’s behavior towards the candidate. Social media can also be used by various parties to propagate false news and propaganda about the opposition in order to disfavor such party or candidate in the eyes of the electorates while exonerating theirs. This has a huge influence on voter behaviour as many voters make decisions based on such news they read online.
Furthermore, social media has made voters privy to any kind of information about politicians and their lives as there are no longer any isolated places or hiding holes. The private and public lives of society’s most influential figures including politicians have been made public online. This is because in today’s world, once a politician declares for a post, his entire life including his educational background, his family, his job and any past mistakes or excesses are made public on social media platforms for people to comment, discuss and publicly judge. Many politicians have been found in compromising positions with their words or phrase taken out of context and magnified to huge proportions by opposition parties in order to discredit them.
Many atimes, people go to the extent of recording private conversations or actions of these candidates and make the recorded audio or video public on various social media platforms such as Youtube quickly, with a view to elicit response and vicious backlash from voters and other online users. The belief is that it will go a long way in influencing voter’s behaviour and turning such voter against the candidate since the voter can now judgmentally make decisions about the candidate based on what he said, did or other information about him or her. Even though, such information are refuted sometimes by the concerned party or individual, it remains valid in the minds of many voters who may have made up their mind already or simply are not aware of the true situation.
1.3 AIM AND OBJECTIVES
The general objective of this study is to determine the effect of social media on voter’s behaviour in Lagos State. The specific objectives are;
To find out if social media influences voter behaviour in Lagos State To determine the influence social media has on voter behaviour in Lagos state To find out other factors that influence voter behaviour in Lagos state
1.4 RESEARCH QUESTIONS
Does social media influence voter behaviour in Lagos State? What is the influence of social media on voter behaviour in Lagos State? What are the factors that influence voter behaviour in Lagos State?
In order to enable the researcher assess the effect of social media on voter behaviour in Lagos state, the following hypotheses will be tested:
Ho: Social media does not have any effect on voter behaviour in Lagos state.
HA: Social media has effect on voter behaviour in Lagos state.
1.6 SIGNIFICANCE OF THE STUDY
This study will help beam the searchlight on the impact of social media on voter’s behaviour, the decisions they make and elections as a whole based on the information available to voters on the internet. It will also enlighten relevant stakeholders such as political parties, candidates, and even the civil society on how social media can bring about awareness and campaign opportunities if properly utilized.
This research study will help stakeholders understand that maintaining a good and healthy profile online with a cordial relationship between the party and voters can positively influence voter’s behaviour. Lastly, this research work will add to the body of knowledge on the already existing scholarly materials on the impact of social media on voter behaviour.
1.7 SCOPE/LIMITATION OF STUDY
This study will examine the impact of social media on voter behaviour in Lagos state with special reference to the actual influence it has on vote’s behaviour either positive or negative and the factors determining the behaviour and attitudes that an ordinary voter adopts based on available information gotten online.
1.8 DEFINITION OF TERMS
Voter: a person who has attained the voting age and has the right to vote for a candidate in an election
Social media: are computer-mediated tools that allow people to create, share or
exchange information, ideas and pictures/videos in virtual communities and online networks
Behaviour: is the range of actions and mannerisms made by individuals in
conjunction with themselves or their environment.
Internet: an interconnected group of computer networks allowing for electronic
Election: the formal process of selecting a person for public office or of
accepting or rejecting a political proposition by voting.
Campaign: an organized effort which seeks to influence the decision making process within a specific group.
Friedman, T. The World Is Flat 3.0: A Brief History of the Twenty-first Century. Picador 2007
Centre for European Studies (CES), Suomen Toivo Think Tank, 2012. Social media - the new power of Political influence. Version 1.0 Ari-matti auvinen pgs 4-16
Prat, A. and D. Strömberg (2011). The Political Economy of Mass Media. Stockholm University Working Paper
Sunstein, C. R. (2001). Republic.com. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.
Brader, T. (2006), Campaigning for hearts and minds: how emotional appeals in political ads work, University of Chicago Press, pp. 2–4
Marcus, G.; Neuman, R.; MacKuen, M. (2000), Affective Intelligence and Political Judgment, University of Chicago Press
Voting Behaviour accessed online at retrieved on 10th April, 2015.
5.1 SUMMARY OF FINDINGS
Finding from this study revealed that:
1. Social media influences the voter behaviour in Lagos state and can affect their decision and judgment about the choice of whom to be voted for.
2. Social media passes across fast and transparent information to voters in Lagos State which has exposed corrupt practices in the democratic process boosting the citizen confidence about the process.
3. False information and negative sentiments posted on the social media can influence voter’s behaviour.
4. Social media has contributed to increased interaction and closeness between political class and the voters in Lagos State.
5. Rumors on social media can contribute to the cause of voters apathy as the information posted on the media cannot be entirely controlled by constituted authorities.
6. Social media has created an orientation and education platform for new voters in Lagos State. 5.2 CONCLUSION
Forman (2010) ones observed as cited in Nwosu (1992) that for better for worse, we live in an age which is characterized by the widespread use of various channels of communication. These include traditional mass media and the internet for a broad range of political and other purposes. Traversing the political landscape of any country reveals that electorate are getting more and more enlightened. What is wholly or in part responsible for this are the social media. Whatever may be the contributions of other entities such as civil societies, Idiong (2010) argues, the fact remains that the social media carry the greater responsibility for providing awareness and education about our pluralist political life. They are effective means of enlightening electorate on the qualities of individual candidates, political parties and their programmes and the entire election process at all times. From the analysis and interpretation it is clear that social media play a significant impact on voting behavior of voters. Political parties will be successful in influencing the people of the metros city like Lagos State and semi urban cities. Social media is replacing the traditional media but in remote areas traditional media still has significant impact in creating awareness among people. Social media provides platform to the people to get connected to parties they favour. It became an important marketing tool to reach to target audience in minimum time and within less cost. Online banners adds and other form of advertising has a significant impact on young voter specially students which not only influence them but also help in shaping their behavior. People use social media platform to keep track of political development, technology play a vital role in giving first-hand information in less time. 5.3 RECOMMENDATION
This study makes the following recommendations:
1. Campaigns about the electoral process should be a continuous one on the social media without posting lies. This will get the electorate greatly acquainted with all the requirements and process that make one to be eligible. Ones empowered they can freely exercise their mandate with utmost ease.
2. Government agencies like the National Orientation Agency, NOA and other stakeholders should avoid overreliance on the mass media and make use of social media to rekindle the confidence of the citizens. Interpersonal communication which establishes direct relationship with electorate should be used to complement mass media messages. This is where civil society can play a pivotal role by exhibiting drama to rural communities that need greater awareness.
3. With intensive empowerment, community voting should be replaced with individual voting so as not to disenfranchise voters. Community voting obviously promotes god fatherism. Absence of this strengthens and affirms our democracy as electorate feel fulfilled they freely casted their votes to those they wanted as against being manipulated by Chiefs and god fathers.
4. Voters should realize that whoever they vote will impact on their lives in future. Therefore, they should continue with the gesture of wisely casting their votes free from ethnic, religious and social ties as well as other trivial considerations with retrogressive tendency..