THE INFLUENCE OF SOCIAL MEDIA ON THE VOTING BEHAVIOUR OF THE YOUTH IN SOUTH-EAST NIGERIA
This study titled “The influence of social media on the voting behaviour of youths in south east Nigeria” sought to find out the influence of social media on Nigerian youths voting behaviour. The Nigerian population, according to the census of 2006 has over 70% of Nigeria’s 150million people as under the age of 30years; despite this young populace the country has been having low voters turnout during elections. Guided by the diffusion of innovation and agenda setting theories, the study used questionnaire and interview to sample the opinions of Nigerian youths resident in the south east to examine if and how they utilize social media and the influence it has on their political behaviour. Using the online Australian calculator, a sample size of 400 respondents was drawn from the five south eastern states which had a combined population of 16, 395, 560. Multi level sampling which consisted of cluster sampling and purposive sampling was used to draw the respondents across the south eastern states. Findings revealed that Nigerian youths resident in the south eastern region are very active on social media and it has a positive influence on their voting behaviour. However, social media does not have an influence on their voting preferences. It is however a veritable mass medium that can be used to set agenda and diffuse ideas and programmes to the youths as it is highly regarded as a credible medium by the youth. It is recommended that the federal government should intensify its ICT drive in the education and other sectors to bring more citizens also on the information super highway. Orientation agencies, political parties, electoral bodies were advised to increase their online presence especially on social media platforms which are popular with the youths in order to reverse the voters apathy syndrome prevalent among the youths.
Table of Contents
Title page - - - - - - - - - - i
Certification - - - - - - - - - - ii
Dedication - - - - - - - - - - iii
Acknowledgements - - - - - - - - - iv
Abstract - - - - - - - - - - v
Table of contents - - - - - - - - - vi
List of Tables - - - - - - - - - - viii
List of Figures - - - - - - - - - - ix
Chapter One: Introduction
Background of the Study-------1
Statement of the Problem-------4
Objectives of Study--------5
Significance of Study --------6
Scope of the Study--------6
Definition of Terms-------7
Chapter Two: Literature Review
The Internet: Precursor to Social Media.-----9
Social Media as a Concept-------13
Facebook: History and Functionalities-----16
Twitter: History and Functionalities ------17
Metamorphosis of Social Media------19
Review of Related Studies-------21
Social Media as Political Campaign Tools-----25
Chapter Three: Research Methodology
Population of Study--------33
3.3 Sample Size - - - - - - - - - 34
Sampling Techniques --------35
Instrument for Data Collection------37
Validity of the Instruments-------37
Reliability of the Instruments -------38
Method of Data Collection-------38
Method of Data Analysis-------38
Chapter Four: Data Presentation and Analysis
Data Presentation and Analysis------40
Discussion of Findings-------62
Chapter Five: Summary, Conclusion and Recommendations
5.1 Summary - - - - - - - - - 68
5.2 Conclusion - - - - - - - - - 69
Limitations of Study --------70
List of Tables
Table 1: Distribution of Respondents Across five south eastern state - - 36
Table 2: Gender Distribution of Respondents - - - - - 41
Table 3: Distribution of Respondents’ Nationality - - - - - 42
Table 4: Distribution of Respondents according to Age Brackets - - - 43
Table 5: Distribution of Respondents’ Possession of Facebook /Twitter Accounts - 44
Table 6: Frequency of Facebook/Twitter usage by Respondents - - - 45
Table 7: Duration of time spent on Facebook/Twitter Daily - - - - 46
Table 8: Devices Utilised for accessing Facebook/Twitter - - - - 47
Table 9: Major Information Source on 2015 Presidential Election - - - 48
Table 10: Distribution of Respondents’ exposure to voters’ registration exercise
messages on social media - - - - - - - 49
Table 11: Distribution of respondent’s response to calls to participate in
voters’ registration exercise - - - - - - - 50
Table 12: Respondents’ exposure to messages on social media asking them to vote- 51
Table 13: Respondents’ voting pattern during 2015 presidential election - - 52
Table 14: Social media’s influence on respondents’ voting preferences - - 53
Table 15: Influence behind respondents voting preferences - - - - 54
Table 16: Respondents voting preference for candidate who campaigns on social media 55
Table 17: Perception of Facebook/Twitter as credible sources of information - 56
Table 18: Perception of social media’s credibility - - - - - 57
Table 19: Distribution of Respondents Opinions on Social Media Campaign - 58
List of Figures
Figure 1: Gender Distribution of Respondents - - - - - 41
Figure 2: Distribution of Respondents’ Nationality - - - - - 42
Figure 3: Distribution of Respondents according to Age Brackets - - - 43
Figure 4: Distribution of Respondent’ Possession of Facebook/Twitter
Accounts - - - - - - - - - 44
Figure 5: Frequency of Facebook/Twitter usage by Respondents - - - 45
Figure 6: Duration of time spent on Facebook/Twitter Daily - - - 46
Figure 7: Devices Utilised for accessing Facebook/Twitter - - - - 47
Figure 8: Major Information Source on 2015 Presidential Election - - - 48
Figure 9: Distribution of Respondents’ exposure to voters’ registration
exercise messages on social media - - - - - - 49
Figure 10: Distribution of Respondents’ response to calls to participate in
voters’ registration exercise - - - - - - - 50
Figure 11: Did you see any message(s) on social media asking you to
ensure you vote during 2015 election? - - - - - 51
Figure 12: Did you vote during 2015 presidential election? - - - - 52
Figure 13: Social media’s influence on respondents’ voting preferences - - 53
Figure 14: Influence behind respondents voting preferences - - - - 54
Figure 15: Would you vote for a candidate who campaigns on Facebook/Twitter
rather than one who does not? - - - - - - 55
Figure 16: Do you think Facebook/Twitter are credible source of information? - 56
Figure 17: To what degree do you rate the credibility of social media? - - 57
Figure 18: Distribution of Respondents Opinions on Social Media Campaign - 58
CHAPTER ONE INTRODUCTION
1.2 Background to the Study
The prevalence of democracy as a political system of government among the countries of the world is indisputable. Democracy, over the years in history has come to replace other less popular systems of government like monarchy, theocracy, autocracy, military junta etc. Starting from the American Revolution of 1776, to the French Revolution of 1789, to the Russian Revolution of 1917, democracy swept across the world as the most preferred form of government.
Today, there is only a handful of countries practising monarchical/theocratic system of government compared to the vast majority of countries practising democracy. The popularity of democracy is undoubtedly attributable to its people oriented nature. As demonstrated by the French revolutionists, what the people wanted was encapsulated in their motto Liberté, Egalité et Fratenité (Liberty, Equality and Brotherhood). The French people wanted the freedom to choose their own leaders and their representatives. They sought a kind of government where everyone would be equal irrespective of their class or status in the society. Former President of the United States of America, Abraham Lincoln, puts it aptly in his classic definition of democracy as “government of the people by the people and for the people”.
An online dictionary, thefreedictionary.com, defines democracy as “government by the people, exercised either directly or through elected representatives”. The process of choosing representatives by the people to represent/govern them is known as ‘election’ which is a sine qua non in any democratic setting. Elections are at the very heart of democracy, and are indeed the
very essence of democracy. However, prior to the election proper, political parties, politicians, party members and other stakeholders engage in an equally important process called “electioneering”. Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English defines electioneering as “speeches and other activities that are intended to persuade people to vote for a particular person or political party”. It is popularly regarded as ‘campaigning’ in this part of the world.
An ‘election year’ is like no other year in any country practising democracy. Politicians and their respective political parties go to a great length to reach out to eligible citizens with persuasive messages in order to convince the electorates to vote for them. No stratum of the society is spared from the barrage of electioneering: market women, working class, traders, artisans, students, professional bodies, youths, etc are all targeted in order to secure their votes.
The mass media is the tool of choice to reach the heterogeneous and widely dispersed electorates. Massive funds are usually earmarked by politicians and their parties for electioneering in the traditional mass media i.e. television, radio, newspapers and magazines. The popularity of the mass media is due to its wide reach/coverage. Nomadic herdsmen can be reached via their transistor radios, elites and literati can be reached via newspapers, women can be reached via magazines and town/city dwellers mostly via the television. However, a very important component of the electorates – the youth – seem to be increasingly ‘unreachable’ through the traditional media, as they seem to be making a shift away from the traditional media to internet based applications like social media. The decreasing influence of traditional media was noted by Thomas, Allen and Semenik (2014): as “an important issue propelling this search for new ways to reach consumers is the slow but steady erosion in the effectiveness of traditional broadcast media”. Dominick (2011) also noted that: ‘The audience for network news, newspaper,
and news magazines has been shrinking for the past 30 years. The same trend holds true for local TV news
The Nigerian youth make up a substantial part of the Nigerian populace as well as eligible voters. Ex-Finance Minister, Mrs. Okonjo-Iweala, at a conference in Lagos in 2010 cited 70 percent of Nigeria’s population of 150 million as “under 30 years old”. She further stated that the youth population (those between 12-24 years of age) was estimated at 30 million (Kolapo, 2010). This is a significant number that cannot be ignored by any politician or political party. The media shift of youths from traditional media to internet based applications like social media is traceable to a number of factors. One is the increasing internet penetration in the country. According to the latest statistics from internetworldstats.com, there are 92, 699, 924 internet users in Nigeria as at November 15th 2015, representing 51.1% of the population. In Nigeria today, information and communication technology (ICT) is now part of secondary schools’ curricula and students in their final year are required to register for their various examinations online. The results of the examinations are also accessible online. The subscriber base of GSM has grown to over 148 million representing a teledensity of about 98% according to subscriber stat 2015 report released by the Nigerian communication commission (NCC, 2015). Many Nigerian universities are now equipped with Wi-Fi which is available to students at little or no costs. Many students now own laptops/net books and other mobile devices like ipads, blackberries, iphones and other smart phones through which they access social media sites like facebook, twitter, You tube, Hi5, 2go etc on the internet. According to the Interneststats, about 15, 000, 000 Nigerians have Facebook accounts (as at November 15th 2015) with the majority of them being youths under the age of 30 years. The number of Nigerian youths signing up to
Facebook and Twitter keep increasing at an astronomical rate daily. This may be attributable to the “herd instinct” nature of youths wanting “to belong” or “be current” with the latest trends.
The focus of this study therefore is to examine the influence of the use of social media on the voting behaviour of Nigerian youths that are of voting age in south east Nigeria. The study attempted to examine if the social media can be a veritable tool of social control like the traditional mass media.
Statement of the Problem
The Nigerian census of 2006 shows that over 70% of Nigeria’s 150 million people are under the age of 30 years, (Kolapo, 2010). This makes the Nigerian populace a young one. However, youths’ participation in the country’s electoral process is not commensurate with the numbers. Nigerian youths are generally lackadaisical or even totally uninterested in electoral matters, resulting in low voter’ turnout at elections.
The former head of Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) Professor Attahiru Jega made this known at a workshop in Abuja sometimes in 2011 after the 2011 general elections. He stated: “There exists voters’ apathy in Nigeria and this is no longer contentious. Voters turnout in the just concluded general elections hand provided a scientific and empirical evidence of the existence of voter apathy and nonchalance of sections of the electorate in elections” (Abonyi, 2011).
This youth apathy towards election obviously does not augur well for sustenance of democracy in the country, hence the sensitization and mobilization drive by the federal government to encourage youths of eligible age to participate in the electoral process by registering and also voting for candidates of their choices. Apart from the traditional media, the social media is another medium through which the government and especially the presidential
candidates reached out to mobilize the youth in the last 2015 general elections. This study is to examine the use of social media as a veritable mobilization tool for electioneering campaigns in general elections with a focus on south eastern Nigeria. The study will x-ray how the use of social media had influenced the voting behaviour of the youth with regard to the 2015 presidential elections.
Objectives of Study
The objectives of this study are as follows:
1. To determine the extent to which youths (in south east Nigeria) utilize social media
2. To determine the extent of the influence social media usage on youths participation in the 2015 electoral process.
3. To ascertain the correlation between social media influence and youths’ voting preference(s).
4. To determine the level of credibility youths attach to social media messages
1. To what extent did youths in south east Nigeria utilize Social media in the 2015 presidential election?
2. To what extent did social media influence youths participation in the 2015 presidential electoral process?
3. To what extent did social media usage influence south east based youths’ voting preference(s) in the 2015 presidential election?
4. To what degree do youths regard social media messages as credible?
Significance of Study
The findings of this study will add more knowledge to the existing literature on media effect theories. It will also serve as a reference for future researchers that may want to undertake a research on a similar study.
Government agencies/parastatals/departments will find the result of this study useful, especially those that are in the business of disseminating public service announcements and national orientation messages. More often than not most of such messages are targeted toward the youths in particular e.g. “Voter Registration”. “Cool 2 Vote”, “Anti cultism”. Anti-abortion, HIV/AIDS prevention etc.
The result of this study would be of interest to all political parties that want to sell their parties, manifestos, candidates, ideas to the youths in order to secure their votes. Political parties in the 21st century cannot afford to be technologically bankrupt in this information age.
The findings of this study will contribute to the sustainable development of democracy in Nigeria. The youth are the future and drivers of any country, therefore conducting researches/studies into their political, social behavior is of paramount importance.
Scope of the Study
This study aims to examine the influence of the use of social media as a political/mobilization tool on the voting behaviour of Nigerian youths. Even though social media encompasses a lot of internet-based applications this study shall however be limited primarily to just Facebook and Twitter being the two most popular social media amongst Nigerian youths.
Only Nigerian youths resident in the south eastern states (Anambra, Ebonyi, Enugu, Abia and Imo) from the voting age of 18 years through 35 years that have Facebook and/or Twitter accounts shall be polled.
This study will examine the voting pattern of the aforementioned youths for the 2015 presidential elections only.
Definition of Terms
Social media: Social media includes the various online technology tools that enable people to communicate easily via the internet to share information and resources. It can include text, audio, video, images, podcasts, and other multimedia communications. (www.Aboutcom). Some popular example of social media are: Facebook, Twitter, My Space, Hi5, Skype, 2go, You tube, Linked in etc. Social media is simply “the set of web-based broadcast technologies that enable the democratization of content giving people the ability to emerge from consumers to publishers.
Youth: The period or time when someone is young especially the period when someone is a teenager (Longman dictionary). For the purpose of this study youths shall be persons from the voting age of 18 years through to 35 years only.
Voting behaviour: This has to do with youth response towards voting. There could be low voters turnout, average of large voters’ turnout.
Influence: The power to affect the way someone or something behaves, thinks without using direct force or order.
Twitter: An online social networking site located on www.twittercom
Facebook: An online social networking site located on www.facebookcom
South East Nigeria: This is one of the six geopolitical zones in Nigeria. It comprises Enugu, Anambra, Abia, Imo and Ebonyi States.
Abonyi, I. (2011) “2011 Poll: INEC confirms voter’s apathy, says only 35% participated”.
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The internet world stats (2015a). “Africa Internet usage and 2015 population stats” available on www.internetworldstatscom/africa.htm#, accessed November 15th 2015
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