Social media networks over the years has proven to be a great source of information and communication in a large scale leading to a vast amount of diverse datasets. This capability makes it possible to analyse large amounts of data virtually on any topic from online users. Organisations, media houses, politicians, artists, entertainers, among others, utilise social media to engage with a broader audience. Social media platforms play an instrumental role in election campaigns and other political debates, as reported in past studies. Despite the growing number of studies concerning the impact of social media in elections, little attention has been paid to Africa’s largest democracy (Nigeria); this motivates our study. For the study, we collected a large number of tweets based on the Twitter handles of the political parties and presidential candidates. We measured the online activities of political parties and candidates and analyzed users’ opinions to understand their sentiments. We apply a novel method of reverse engineering of Twitter accounts to understand the online campaign strategies of the parties. It was found out that twitter was mostly used by the parties and their candidates to put across campaign promises and canvas vote from the public, the civil society used twitter for engagements and discussing the available candidates thereby leading to availability of much information about them, creating awareness for the wide array of social media users. Finally, compared to the actual election outcome, our Twitter analysis correctly predicts the winner in 24 states out of the 37 states (including the Federal Capital Territory). Our findings provide insight into the 2019 Nigerian election from social media perspectives and encourage further research about the country using data from social media.
1.1 BACKGROUND OF STUDY
This research examines the impact of social media on election outcomes in Nigeria with special consideration on the 2019 general elections. In the last two decades, democracy has spread across the globe in unprecedented ways. Democracies increased from 48 in 1989 to 95 today (Monty and Benjamin, 2011). After the end of cold war democracy began to spread like wide fire which led to the end of dictatorial rule in many African countries. Presently, Democratic activists and ordinary citizens throughout the world have over and over again proved that democracy is a universal value and make democracy become a global desire in the modern world. According to Global Commission Report on democracy and security (2012) the Arab Awakening confirmed that the popular demand for democracy is not bound by region, ethnicity, culture, or religion. Perhaps the most compelling evidence that democracy is a universal value comes from the many authoritarian governments that seek to wrap themselves in the veneer of democratic legitimacy.
The re-election of Muhammadu Buhari as president of Nigeria has been remarked internationally as a swift power play in Africa’s most populous nation with social media playing greater role or influenced the fairness of the election. Social media with all their flaws had the power of immediacy. They’re also very participatory. In an election where you have citizens who are participating, they were also providing the news and information surrounding the elections. It was an empowerment of people through their votes, and also through their ability to disseminate information. That is not to say that traditional media didn’t play a role. But the social media role was central. The world is becoming increasingly connected via the power of the Internet; Facebook launched internet.org an initiative to gain even the most remote parts of society access to the World Wide Web. Political movements have begun to see social media as a major organizing and recruiting tool and the reverse can be said for society. Social media (done right) gives you all this because it’s inherently a two-way communication system. Rather than getting brand messages, you get recommendations from friends in the form of re-shares and recommended posts, which de commercializes the brand message.
Social media is that space, the many tools helping to amplify the voices of average Nigerians, taking ordinary voice sand making them extraordinary by bringing them to homes, offices, and places most of them would have probably never reached under different circumstances. It started out as a playground for mostly young jobless people. Today, it has become the battle ground of what would arguably be the most competitive election in Nigeria‘s history.
The advent of internet and technology has exposed majority of the global population to different interactive platforms on which different kind of information is exchanged which might significantly have effect on human behavior, 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.
According to Eugene (2019) the popularity of getting political news from social media platforms is greatly increasing. A 2014 study showed that 62% of web users turn to Facebook to find political news. This social phenomenon allows for political information, true or not, spreading quickly and easily among peer networks. Furthermore, social media sites are now encouraging political involvement by uniting like-minded people, reminding users to vote in elections, and analyzing users‗ political affiliation data to find cultural similarities and differences. 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.
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. Social media can help taint the reputation of political figures fairly quickly with information that may or may not be true. Information spreads like wildfire and before a politician can even get an opportunity to address the information, either to confirm, deny, or explain, the public has already formed an opinion about the politician based on that information. However, when conducted on purpose, the spread of information on social media for political means can help campaigns immensely. Open forums online have also been the root of negative and positive effects in the political sphere. Some politicians have made the mistake of using open forums to try and reach a broader audience and thus more potential voters. What they forgot to account for was that the forums would be open to everyone, including those in opposition. Having no control the comments being posted, negative included, has been damaging for some with unfortunate oversight. Additionally, a constraint of social media as a tool for public political discourse is that if oppressive governments recognize the ability social media has to cause change.
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 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. Social media has become powerful enough to influence voters choices, as information on the candidates are spread across for easy access and choice making.
1.2 STATEMENT OF THE PROBLEM
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/her own views, opinions and expectations from the party and candidate. Although the social media had helped in increasing the awareness about 2019 general election. 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. This has a huge influence on voter behavior, 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 behavior 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 2019 general election 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 a times, people go to the extent of record phone conversations with another candidates and make the recorded audio or video public on various social media platforms such as Facebook, Whatsapp and Twitter 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 behavior 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.
Social media, as in the case of twitter and Facebook, are open spaces where voters come together virtually and discuss the polity of the nation, campaigns and candidate’s credibility.
This research work is set to uncover elections and election campaign in Nigeria, particularly, the 2019 presidential election, and the role of social media in influencing voting patterns of the masses.
1.3 OBJECTIVES OF STUDY
The aim of the study is to find out the impact of social media in the 2019 general election outcome. Hence the specific objectives are as follow:
- To find out the extent in which social media was used as a political tool during the 2019 election.
- To identify the online campaign strategies used by candidates and political parties in the 2019 general election.
- To find out the correlation between social media campaigns and election outcomes
1.4 RESEARCH QUESTIONS
- What was the extent of use of social media as a political tool during the 2019 elections?
- What were the online campaign strategies used by candidates and political parties?
- What is the correlation between social media campaigns and election outcomes?
1.5 SIGNIFICANCE OF THE STUDY
This study will shine a light on the impact of social media on elections, election campaigns and voting patterns, based on the information available on Facebook, Whatsapp and Twitter. It will also enlighten relevant stakeholders such as political parties, candidates, and the 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 behavior. Lastly, this research work will add to the body of knowledge on the already existing scholarly materials on the impact of social media in creating awareness for the masses on their society.
1.6 SCOPE AND LIMITATIONS OF STUDY
The study was limited to the 2019 general elections in Nigeria, it covers the campaigns, voting and the outcome of the result. Twitter and Facebook were the social media in close consideration.
1.7 RESEARCH METHODOLOGY
1.7.1 Research design
The method used in this study is mainly of doctrinal or library research in nature. The theory-based teaching methodology will allow the researcher to consult, address, examine, study and fill in the gaps in the authors’ work contained in textbooks, magazines and the Internet. The data collected through library research, which the researcher reads, writes and collects relevant information about this project. When seeking information from related documents, such as books, scientific journals and others that consider the main problem of this subject of study, the researcher tries to draw conclusions from examining various views.
1.7.2 Population of study
The target population for this study comprised of reports from INEC on the 2019 general elections, campaign posts on social media from political parties and candidates.
1.7.3 Area of study
The study focused on the social media space in Nigeria and 2019 national electioneering in Nigeria, located in West African.
1.7.4 Sample Size and Sampling Technique
In view of the researcher’s inability to reach out to the entire population the research used sample cases from tweet engagements of Muhammadu Buhari, Atiku Abubakar, Fela Durotoye and Sowore.
1.7.5 Data collection techniques
The data we collected through library research in which the researcher reads, writes and gathers pertinent information related to the topic of this project. After collating information from related documents such as international legal instrument, books, scientific journals, and others regarding the main problem as the object of this research, then the researcher tries to make conclusion.
1.7.6 Data processing and Analysis
In this study, the researcher uses qualitative prescriptive analysis in which the researcher analyzes, interprets, or discusses the topic based on relevant previous researches conducted.
1.8 Organization of the study
This study is reported in five different but related chapters. The first chapter highlights the research problem, its focus and the research process/methodology. In the second chapter, some literatures were reviewed. These literatures helped in expanding the horizon of the study. In the third chapter we gave an overview of the impact of social media on elections outcome with specifics on the ethnographic analysis of Nigerian elections, we further gave an overview of the social media network. In the fourth chapter, adopting the doctrinal method analysis, we provided answers to the research questions while in the fifth chapter, we drew a conclusion and a summary.
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