AN EVALUATION OF THE EFFECTIVENESS OF SOCIAL MEDIA AS TOOLS FOR POLITICAL MOBILIZATION IN NIGERIA’S 2015 PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION

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ABSTRACT
Social media have evolved as the most common information source in the world. Currently, social media have gained more popularity in political communication and mobilization efforts. Recent elections in Nigeria witnessed the profound use of online platforms to mobilize and galvanize people for political actions. This study evaluates the effectiveness of social media as tool for political mobilization in 2015 presidential election in Nigeria. The combination of survey and focus groups were adopted to provide the study with quantitative and qualitative data. Five research questions were generated to provide answers to the key variables that make up this study. The sample was generated using the Australian National Statistical Service (NSS) online calculator, which gives us 385 from the population of this study, which was derived from the population of eligible voters in Southern Nigerian (which includes: South-West South-East and South-South geopolitical zones) for the period under study, 31,173,882. The results were presented in table, percentages and charts. The results of the findings from the survey and focus group revealed that 100% of the respondents were exposed to social media messages during the 2015 presidential election, 96% used various social media platforms, and 72.2% said they were influenced by the messages they were exposed to. Majority of the respondents (90.3%) agree that social media were effective in the presidential election; majority of the focus group participants agreed with these claims. A large percentage numbering 312 of the respondents agreed that social media can be effective in political mobilization. However, the study identified some challenges that can stall the effective use of social media in political mobilization. On the other hand, practical solutions that would help reduce such blips were also provided. Some of the recommendations the study proferred are; sensitization of the masses on the use of social media during election, monitoring and moderate regulation of social media platforms during elections in order to reduce malicious contents; and lastly, the study seggessted that social mediashould be incorporated into other official activities that precede elections.

TABLE OF CONTENTS

Title Page
List of Tables
List of Figures
Abstract

CHAPTER ONE
INTRODUCTION
1.1       Background of the Study
1.2       Statement of the Problem
1.3       Objective of the Study
1.4       Research Questions
1.5       Significance of the Study
1.6       Scope of the Study
1.7       Definition of Terms
References

CHAPTER TWO
LITERATURE REVIEW
2.1       Focus of Review
2.2       The Review of Related Literatures
2.2.1    Social Media as a Concept
2.2.2    Explaining the Concept of Election
2.2.3    Mobilization in Context of the Study
2.2.4    Mass Mobilization in Context
2.2.5    Social Media and Political Mobilization
2.2.6    Social Media Use in Nigeria Election
2.3       Theoretical Framework
2.3.1    Media Dependency Theory
2.3.2    Adaptive Structuration Theory
References

CHAPTER THREE
RESEARCH METHODOLOGY
3.1       Research Design
3.2       Population of the Study
3.3       Sample Size
3.4       Sampling Technique
3.5       Measuring Instrument
3.6       Method of Data Collection
3.7       Validity of Instrument
3.8       Reliability of Instrument
3.9       Method of Data Analysis
3.10     Limitation of the Study
References

CHAPTER FOUR
DATA PRESENTATION AND ANALYSIS
4.1       Description of sample
4.1.1    Data Presentation and Analysis (Demographics)
4.1.2    Findings and Answer to Research Questions
4.1.3    Data Presentation of Focus Group Discussion
4.2       Discussion of Findings
References

CHAPTER FIVE
SUMMARY, CONCLUSION AND RECOMMENDATION
5.1       Summary
5.2       Conclusion
5.3       Recommendation
Bibliography
Appendix

CHAPTER ONE

INTRODUCTION

1.1         Background of the Study
The mass media have since emerged as the most common source of information about election campaigns in democracies and societies in transition around the world (Macnamara, 2008). In terms of the sheer volume of information available to citizens via the media on issues - political parties and leaders; electioneering often represent a high point for political communications. The fact is, there is a great need for the people to be informed during elections and other exercises in the whole political processes leading up to the election (Denver, 2007, p. 125). The electoral body in Nigeria-Independent National Electoral Commission, and political parties, as well as aspirants use various platforms to reach the widely dispersed electorate- for mobilization, political participation or registration, voting process, politicking, and to sensitize the people on the best conduct during the election exercise.

Communication is at the center of all political activities, and the new Internet technologies offer various platforms where information and other socio-political communication can be constructed and discussed. This has made the medium become a formidable one; the mobilizing structure of the social networks and all resources necessary for popular mobilization, which in this case is contained in social media as the fastest and cheapest way to mobilize (Stark 2010). Increasing use of the new media has extended interaction in time and space.


In Nigeria, though presently popular amongst the elite, the social media (and other social networks, SNS) are gaining currency in politics. Amongst the elite, the social media provide unhindered communication with Internet users anywhere, anytime almost simultaneously (Nwoye, & Okafor, 2014:36). Individual users of the social media steer the use of verbal and non-verbal communication and accessories to remove territorial boundaries in their interaction with others. Thus, the Internet has enhanced access which is both open and close.

The throng of population social media has attracted in these years, as well as its unrestrained ubiquity and multimedia capabilities have all contributed to the success of new media technology and its growing popularity in political communication. It is an undeniable reality that the emergence of the Internet and other social networking sites available to the people in this information age have revolutionized and redefined the entire mass communication process (Sunstein, 2001).

With social media recently evolving as a platform for social, informational, and political exchange, it has become an influential tool used to effectively target numerous sectors in our society. It comes as no surprise that politicians are using these channels to influence attitudes about themselves, set agenda, and even shape outcomes of campaigns (Gale, 2010). The recently evolved “micro-blogging” social media site, Twitter, is the ideal vehicle for this kind of self-promotion; thus, giving politicians the ability to inform mass number of people about their political activities almost instantaneously (Aharony, 2010). Twitter’s short posts, called “tweets,” enable users to share updates with friends, colleagues, and in a politician’s case, potential voters, giving users the ability to influence, inform, and engage each other in topics across the board.

This implies that the use of social media for socio-political engineering has continued to grow. The technology is participatory, interactive and cost-effective making it a potent medium for communication in the twenty-first century (Okoro and Nwafor 2013:31). No doubt, they added that social media is ubiquitous. Their submission vividly captures the potency of the new media. In their words, Okoro and Nwafor opine that:

The new media is flexible, accessible and affordable. They promote democratization of media, alter the meaning of geographic distance, and allow for ease in the volume and speed of communication.

The potency of the social media is becoming even more pervading by the day with the mobile social media now in vogue. Given the abrupt rise in mobile computing, most popular social media platforms of the past years now hinge on the capabilities of smart phones and tablets (Digital trends, 2014). Further submissions by scholars that also corroborate the potency of the social media include works by Kaplan (2012); and Bastos (2014). Thus, the mobile social media have made communication and interaction possible everywhere, anywhere.

Internet penetration in Nigeria has increased dramatically in recent years. Current statistics place Nigeria ahead of other African nations in internet penetration and social media use. With an estimated population of 167 million and 56 million internet users as at December 2012, Nigeria is the biggest internet market in Africa. Of the 115 million mobile telephone subscribers in the country, 35 million use their handheld devices to access internet data services. (Business Day Research and Intelligence Unit 2013 report).

Significantly, the use of social media in election processes in Nigeria has gained a dramatic shift from its former usage before 2011 general elections because of their enormous potentials in pulling reasonable followership and relay information at the quickest speed ever recorded by any other media platform. Electoral success and results can now be predetermined through opinion polls and trends in cyber-space. This was evident in the way social media played a prominent role in Ekiti and Osun states governorship elections.....

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