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SOCIAL MEDIA AS TOOLS FOR POLITICAL PARTICIPATION AND MOBILIZATION IN ELECTION

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ABSTRACT ON POLITICAL PARTICIPATION

The main objective of the study investigated social media as tools for political participation and mobilization in the 2023 general election with a particular focus on University of Abuja students. The study was anchored on Technological Advancement Theory and Uses and Gratifications Theory to give the study the needed footing. A cross-sectional survey research method was adopted and questionnaires were used to elicit responses from respondents within Researchcage University students who were selected using quota sampling technique. The data were analyzed using descriptive statistics (frequency and percentage) and the data were presented with the aid of tables. The study found that substantial numbers of the respondents (98.1%) used social media platforms to source for political information daily during the 2023 general election. Meanwhile, the credibility of author is one of the core factor that influenced students trust in social media posts during the 2023 general election. Also, a significant number of the respondents (58.6%) noted that texts, pictures and videos shared on social media during the 2023 general election were partially credible due to the presence of fake news. Although, it shaped their opinion during the 2023 general election to some extent. The study recommended that politicians, party or candidate supporters and other political stakeholders should use social media responsibly and should avoid using it to spread misinformation or incite violence, while, voters should be more critical of the information they see on social media and should be careful not to share false or misleading stories.


CHAPTER ONE

INTRODUCTION

1.1       Background to the Study

            Political mobilization, education, and participation have mostly been carried out by newspapers in Nigeria since the return to democratic rule. In later years, radio and television were used equally. From the colonial era elections till date, mass media have been the key platform for political communication, public education, political participation and mobilization of the electorates.

            However, advancements in information and communication technology in Nigeria have paved way for modern means of mass communication facilitated by the Internet, particularly new media technologies and specifically social media, which have boosted political awareness, participation and reduced political apathy.

            In recent years, social media platforms have revolutionized the way people communicate and engage with politics. Nigeria, a country with a vibrant and dynamic social media landscape, has witnessed the transformative power of these platforms in shaping political communication, mobilization, and participation (Ogunlesi, 2023).

            Meanwhile, there is no gain saying in the fact that social media has emerged as a powerful medium for political communication, mobilization and participation in Nigeria. Platforms such as Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Tiktok and WhatsApp enable politicians, political parties, and citizens to disseminate information, express opinions, and engage in public discourse. For instance, during the 2015 and 2019 general elections in Nigeria, social media played a significant role in amplifying political messages and mobilizing voters (Obi, 2017).

            Social media platforms provide Nigerian citizens with a space to actively engage in political discussions, voice their opinions, and participate in public debates. These platforms allow citizens to interact with political leaders, political parties, and citizens, thereby bridging the gap between the governed and the government as it has enhanced political participation by enabling citizens to mobilize shared interests and concerns (Chinenyengo, 2020).

            There is no a doubt that, the 2023 general election witnessed a significant reliance on social media by candidates seeking to connect with a broad base of voters. Social media platforms offered candidates an unprecedented opportunity to reach a vast audience and engage with potential voters on a personal level. With billions of users worldwide, platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram become crucial grounds for political campaigns (Ceron, 2020). By leveraging these platforms, candidates can disseminate their policy proposals, communicate their values, and directly respond to citizens’ concerns, thereby influencing voters’ perception of their candidacies.

            Social media enables candidates to craft tailored messages and microtarget specific demographics based on user data and preferences. Advanced algorithms and analytics enable campaigns to identify voters’ interests, locations, and ideological leanings, facilitating precise targeting of campaign advertisements and messages. This level of personalization enhances the relevance of political content, making it more likely to resonate with voters and potentially sway their choices. Endorsements from influential figures, celebrities, or social media influencers also play a role in shaping public opinions and influencing voters’ decisions.

            Without doubt, social media plays a significant role in political participation during elections, offering various benefits that enhance democratic processes in every democratic nations of the world. For instance, social media platforms provide a space for political dialogue, enabling citizens to engage in discussions about electoral issues and candidates (Alodat, Al-Qora’n, Abu Hamoud, 2023). It allows voters to express their opinions, ask questions, and participate in online debates, thereby increasing overall voter engagement.

            Similarly, social media allows political candidates to share their policies, agendas, and campaign updates directly with the public (electorate). Voters can access information about candidates’ platforms, facilitating an informed decision-making process (Obisesan, 2022). Such as live streaming, Vloging or watching on Youtube. Social media platforms are particularly popular among young people. They offer an avenue for political parties and candidates to engage with the youth demographic, encouraging their participation in the electoral process.

            According to Ahmad, Alvi, & Ittefaq (2019), social media enables real-time fact-checking and information dissemination, promoting transparency. Candidates and parties are held accountable for their statements and actions, fostering a more open political environment, this is evident in sharing election result ward by ward, local government by local government and state by state.

            Studies suggest that social media campaigns can positively impact voter turnout. Engaging content, targeted messaging, and online mobilization efforts can encourage more people to vote by allowing the formation of online communities centered around political issues (Obisesan, 2022). These communities provide a space for like-minded individuals to discuss ideas, share information, and collectively engage in political activities, promoting civic participation. Such platform can be tagged “ Let Vote”, “Agenda 2023”, and “Nigerians Decide”. This research assesses social media for political participation during the Nigerian 2023 general election with a particular focus personal experience of Researchcage University students.

1.2       Statement of the Problem

            There is a growing body of research on the effectiveness of social media as a tool for political communication, participation and mobilization in Nigeria. However, there are still some research gaps that need to be addressed. One of such research gaps is the lack of longitudinal studies on the influence of social media on political mobilization and mobilization. Most of the researches on this topic have been conducted in a cross-sectional manner, which means that it only looks at the impact of social media on political participation and mobilization at a single point in time. This makes it difficult to assess how social media changes over time (1999, 2013, 2015, 2019 and 2023 general elections).

            Most of the researches on this subject matter have been conducted at a general level, and it does not provide much detail about how social media are being used by political actors in Nigeria. However, there is still need to understand how social media influence the way people particularly university students participate in politics in Nigeria especially in the 2023 general election.

            The above are just some of the research gaps that need to be addressed in order to fully understand social media as tools for political participation and mobilization in Nigeria. However, due to the fact that, no general election again in Nigeria until 2027 and there is no gubernatorial election within the researcher’s reach (states), longitudinal study cannot be conducted. However, this study will examine the most influential social media platform (s) in the 2023 general election and see if they differ from the influence on the previous elections. It is against this background that the study assesses social media for political participation during the Nigerian 2023 general election with a particular focus personal experience of Researchcage University students.

1.3       Aim and Objectives of the Study

            The objective of the study is to assess social media for political participation during the Nigerian 2023 general election. The specific objectives are:

  1. To examine the extent to which social media platforms are used as tools for political participation and mobilization during the 2023 general election in Nigeria.
  2. To identify the key social media platforms and channels that were predominantly used for political participation and mobilization in the 2023 general election.
  3. To assess the role of social media in shaping political opinions and attitudes among Nigerian citizens during the 2023 general election.
  4. To explore the strategies employed by political actors and parties to leverage social media for political participation and mobilization in the 2023 general election.
  5. To evaluate the core challenge of social media as tools for political participation and mobilization in the 2023 general election.

1.4       Research Questions  

In order to explicate the aforementioned objectives, the listed questions will provide answers to the research problem:

  1. How extensively were social media platforms utilized for political participation and mobilization in the 2023 general election in Nigeria?
  2. Which social media platforms and channels were predominantly used for political participation and mobilization during the 2023 general election in Nigeria?
  3. What was the role of social media in shaping political opinions and attitudes among Nigerian citizens during the 2023 general election?
  4. How did political actors and parties leverage social media platforms for political participation and mobilization in the 2023 general election? What strategies did they employ?
  5. What was the core challenge of social media as tools for political participation and mobilization in the 2023 general election?

1.5       Significant of the Study

            Research of this nature is beneficial to youth, civil society, academia, researchers government and other stakeholders: specifically, this study’s findings will impacted on the following:

Democratic Engagement: As Nigeria, like many countries, embraces digitalization, understanding the impact of social media on political participation is crucial for fostering informed and active citizenry. This study will contribute to enhancing democratic engagement by evaluating the role of social media in shaping political discourse and encouraging political participation among citizens.

Youth Empowerment: With a large youth population in Nigeria, social media platforms are popular among young people. Investigating how social media influences their political awareness and participation can empower the youth to voice their concerns, engage with political processes, and contribute to shaping the country’s political landscape.

Civic Education: Social media provides a platform for sharing information and educating citizens about their rights, responsibilities, and the electoral process. Studying its effectiveness in disseminating civic education materials can pave the way for more targeted and efficient educational campaigns, thereby strengthening the foundations of democracy.

Transparency and Accountability: Social media enables real-time dissemination of information, allowing citizens to hold political leaders accountable for their actions and promises. By understanding the dynamics of social media use in political contexts, this study can shed light on how transparency and accountability can be promoted, fostering a more responsible political culture. E.g uploading results from various polling units.

Enhanced Political Campaigning: Political parties and candidates can benefit from insights into effective social media strategies. By analyzing successful social media campaigns, this study can provide valuable recommendations for political actors, enabling them to better connect with the electorate and convey their messages, leading to more vibrant and competitive elections.

Policy Development: Insights from this study can inform the development of policies and regulations related to social media use during elections. Governments can craft evidence-based policies to harness the positive aspects of social media while addressing challenges such as misinformation, hate speech, and digital divides.

Academic Research and Knowledge Base: This study will add valuable data to the academic discourse on the intersection of social media and political participation. Researchers and scholars can build upon the findings, deepening our understanding of the evolving role of social media in shaping democratic processes.

International Perspective: Given the global nature of social media platforms, the findings of this study can offer valuable comparative insights. Understanding social media’s impact on political participation in Nigeria can contribute to international discussions and help other countries navigate similar challenges and opportunities in their electoral processes.

1.6       Scope of the Study

The study which assesses social media for political participation during the Nigerian 2023 general election shall be narrowed in scope to the Researchcage University students. Hence, the geographical scope of this study is Researchcage University campus. The choice of Researchcage University is due to its proximity to the researcher, inadequate time, and lack of fund to study all Nigerians voters among other logistics.

However, Researchcage University students are used to represent all voters in Nigeria. While demography factors of the all students will be examined before the structuring and administration of research instrument (questionnaire). Such demographical variables include but not limited to gender, age, academic level, marital status and many more.

1.7       Operational Definition of Terms

Social Media: Social media refers to a collection of internet-based platforms and technologies that enable individuals and organizations to create, share, and interact with content, information, and other users.

Mobilization: In this study, political mobilization refers to the various activities and means by which individuals especially people who are 18+ in Nigeria to take part in politics.

General Election: This refers to the recent February 2023 general election held in Nigeria that was keenly contested by the trio of APC, PDP and LP.

Participation: This is a political process of participating in 2023 general election such as voting, joining political parties, running for office, activism and advocacy, volunteering in political campaigns.

Politics: In this research, it means all the activities, actions, and policies used to gain and hold power in a government or to influence the government which include voting, participating  in political campaigns, serving as polling agent among others.


PROJECT DETAILS:

Format = MS Word, Price = ₦4000, Chapter = 1-5, Pages = 52, References = Yes, Questionnaire =Yes, Table of Contents = Yes and Abstract = Yes


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