Appraisal Of The Quality Of Political Communication During 2015 General Elections

Project and Seminar Material for Political Science

Appraisal Of The Quality Of Political Communication During 2015 General Elections


Abstract


This study was conducted to assess how newspapers covered political parties in the 2015 presidential election in Nigeria using Enugu metropolis of enugu state as our case study.

Data was collected using questionnaires and analysed using chi-square method to validate our hypothesis. At the end of this work we found out that there is a positive impact of political communication on the success of 2015 election and there is a significant impact of political communication on the development of Nigeria.


Chapter One


1.0 Introduction

1.1 Background of the Study

Political Communication is a sub-field of political science and communication that deals with the production, dissemination, procession and effects of information, both through media and interpersonally, within a political context. This includes the study of the media, the analysis of speeches by politicians and those that are trying to influence the political process, and formal and informal conversations among members of the public, among other aspects. The media acts as bridge between government and public. The study and practice of political communication focuses on the ways and means of expression of a political nature. Robert E. Denton and Gary C. Woodward, two important contributors to the field, in Political Communication in America characterize it as the ways and intentions of message senders to influence the political environment. This includes public discussion (e.g. political speeches, news media coverage, and ordinary citizens’ talk) that considers who has authority to sanction, the allocation of public resources, who has authority to make decision, as well as social meaning like what makes someone American. In their words “the crucial factor that makes communication ‘political’ is not the source of a message, but its content and purpose.” David L. Swanson and Dan Nimmo, also key members of this sub-discipline, define political communication as “the strategic use of communication to influence public knowledge, beliefs, and action on political matters.” They emphasize the strategic nature of political communication, highlighting the role of persuasion in political discourse. Brian McNair provides a similar definition when he writes that political communication is “purposeful communication about politics.” For McNair this means that this not only covers verbal or written statements, but also visual representations such as dress, make-up, hairstyle or logo design. With other words, it also includes all those aspects that develop a “political identity” or “image”. Reflecting on the relationship between political communication and contemporary agenda-building, Vian Bakir defines Strategic Political Communication (SPC) as comprising ‘political communication that is manipulative in intent, that utilises social scientific techniques and heuristic devices to understand human motivation, human behavior and the media environment, to inform effectively what should be communicated – encompassing its detail and overall direction – and what should be withheld, with the aim of taking into account and influencing public opinion, and creating strategic alliances and an enabling environment for government policies – both at home and abroad’.
There are many academic departments and schools around the world that specialize in political communication. These programs are housed in programs of communication, journalism and political science, among others. The study of political communication is clearly interdisciplinary.

Political communications is an interactive process concerning the transmission of information among politicians, the news media and the public. The process operates down-wards from governing institutions towards citizens, horizontally in linkages among political actors, and also upwards from public opinion towards authorities.
The mass media have been a very strong pillar in the Nigerian democratic system. They have played critical roles in the electoral process by acting as major sources of information, providing essentially costless and reliable details leading to a more balanced education and opinion formation among the voting publics (Pate, 2015a). Specifically, during the election period, the media is shouldered with two major responsibilities of informing the public about what the politicians are promising and then in turn, they also tell the politicians what ordinary people want or do not want. These two major responsibilities performed by the media are to ensure that the polls are „free and fair”.
The 2015 general election in Nigeria was the 5th election to be held since the end of military rule in 1999 by the General Abubakar Abdulsalam led military regime. This period also marked the beginning of the fourth republic of Nigeria. Above all, electioneering in Nigeria can, no doubt, be traced as far back to the Clifford’s constitution of 1922. The constitution first introduced the elective principle into the Nigerian politics. Voting was introduced as a means of taking decisions in the legislative council. The aftermaths of these principles of election gave birth to political parties in the country. Buttressing this, Akinboye (1999) explains that the coming of political parties consequently stimulated political discussions amongst Nigerians and thereby led to the struggle against colonialism. Abagen (2009) clarifies that the last fifty years have seen an evolution of various political parties in Nigeria. Therefore, it is evident that these political parties have played and are still playing a vital role in the realization of democratic objectives (Utor, 2000).

These rapid changes have paved ways for worldwide dynamic setting for a greater participation in Nigeria’s politics and in public decision making. This has also become a reference criterion reflecting the democratic level attained by a society. According to Adeyanju (2014), participation in modern politics is the most central ingredient of democracy as it makes it easy for the populace to be abreast of the process of decision making, the decisions made and why they are made.

Similarly, Chilton and Schaffner (2004) opine that the only way to understand how politicians manage to influence the society and how they are able to put their opinions through to a large audience on a local, national, or even global level is to analyze their text and talk. Text and talk can only be effectively analyzed with the aid of media content analysis. This is probably why Made (2008), suggests that the media’s key roles in a democratic society are to inform, educate, and perform the “watchdog” function of keeping the public and private accountable to the interests of the general populace, as well as beingan agent of change through informed, contextualized and accurate reporting of issues and events in a society.

Furthermore, Media coverage is considered important if one is to succeed in politics. This could be the reason why Thomas Jefferson, the third American President, as cited in Nwabueze and Ebeze (2013), state that „where it is left for me to choose whether we should have a government without the press or a press without government, I shall not hesitate a moment to choose the latter”. This simply means that the power and prestige of what we call the mass media are as important as the branches of government. This is because they have a direct impact on each of The arms of government: the executive, legislature and the judiciary (Okpoko, 2014). McQuail (2010) also confirms that there had always been an intimate connection between Mass Media and the conduct of politics in whatever kind of regime. Hence, this symbiotic relationship between politics and the fourth estate of the realm (media) cannot be over emphasized.

The fourth estate of the realm served as the link between the ruler and the ruled, the political parties and their electorates and among the electorates themselves (Adeyanju, 2014). No wonder Peter (2012) observed that, just few citizens personally attend campaign rallies and that most electorates depend on mass media for the messages about the candidates. They do so from the period of acquiring the voters’ registration card, voting during elections, being informed on what voters should do and what they should expect from politicians (Okpoko, 2014). However, media coverage may benefit one party or the other. According to Baum and Gussin (2005), the extent to which some political parties receive more media emphasis on a particular issue during election campaigns, whether intended or not, appears to be a potential form of bias. By virtue of this form of bias, Foster (2010) observes that the press shapes the opinions and attitudes of people, especially in their capacity as voters. As such, everything about the press coverage of political parties in any general election campaign should serve to guide the electorates on what to do with their votes. Writing on this, Lou (1971) as cited in Chukuma (2010) posits that:

Campaign reporters should project the candidates” image by giving them ample press coverage (by the frequency and depth of the reports). They should also endeavour to highlight the candidate”s potentials and shortcomings but with absolute detachment. In other words, they should do critical and objective analysis of the candidates with the aim of educating the electorate in this capacity (p. 2)

In the same vein, Agba (2006) advised that:

Everything about campaign reporting should serve to guide the electorate on what to do with their votes. Informing the electorate does Not mean telling them what the Peoples” Democratic Party (PDP) plans to do for them or what decisions the Action Congress (AC) reached in their last convention, but thorough voter”s guidance should be in the heart of campaign reporting by the media (p. 200).

This view is also shared by Okunna (1999), who believes that the mass media coverage of issues during an election could prod the electorate into perceiving certain issues as being more important than others and could consequently influence audience decision about candidates, and according to Obot(2009), the audience gets to know about aspirants and candidates for various elective posts as well as the manifestos of political parties through the fourth estate of the realm. Curran (2005) adds that the „media assist voters to make informed choices at election time. Through the use of the mass media vehicles, the mass media serve as primary agents of mobilization and campaign of political processes, thereby permitting active involvement in public life”(p. 129).

Equally, the coverage of elections is part of the surveillance function of the media. Through this, the citizens are educated on the quality of the individual candidates presenting themselves for elective offices. Likewise, the media also warn the society on any impending danger with regards to the process of electing its leaders (Pate, 2015a). Although on the contrary, the power of the media is generally symbolic and persuasive in the sense that the media primarily have the potential to control, to some extent, the minds of readers or viewers, it does not directly affect their actions (Van dijk, 1999).

This is why existing literature have shown that mass media is capable of influencing the voting habits of the electorate. This may not be far -fetched from why Lange and Ward (2004) state that the media election coverage in developing countries like Nigeria serves as the sole source of information for the candidates. This includes public meetings with the candidates and the use of leaflets and posters, especially the incumbent administrations” achievement and its future plans for the betterment of the public, including the new issues under debate. Similarly, on the role of the media in Ghana”s 2002 general election, Temin and Smith (2002) found out that the electoral process in the country was successfully and smoothly conducted with a large contribution from the media.

Based on the aforementioned views, Obeta (2007) offers a piece of advice that „any person, group of persons, or even government that ignores the media in their life is courting danger” (p. 123). This hinges on the fact that media reportage on their political life alone is crucial to their survival and growth. Thus, without the use of the mass media, there cannot be a proper understanding of the activities inherent in a democratic state (Adeyanju, 2014).

It is in the light of these positions that the study seeks to analyze an appraisal of the quality of political communication during 2015 general elections.


1.2 Statement of Problem

During the 2015 governorship election in Enugu State, as in other parts of Nigeria, politicians made all manner of promises to the general public which they used to sell their parties and the candidates on their platforms. That advertising was delivered does not necessarily mean that it was received, or does it imply that it was understood and accepted as truthful, such that it actually influenced the behaviour of the electorate in Enugu State during the governorship election. Or were there intervening variables in the communication process? It is in the light of the above that the study decided to investigate the quality of political communication during 2015 general elections.
The media, as the fourth estate of the realm, have witnessed a series of elections in Nigeria since the country’s return to democracy in 1999. According to Pate (2015a), the elections held in Nigeria so far have been characterized by numerous activities and excitement that involved the media in terms of coverage. This implies that enormous literature exists on the conduct of the media in Nigeria’s elections at various times. Thus, reviewing these numerous existing literature, one might be fascinated to ask why the press gives more prominence to some political parties and ignores others. Who or what determines which issues are the most important during an election?


1.3 Aim and Objectives of the Study

The aim of the work is to an appraisal of the quality of political communication during 2015 general elections. The specific objectives are:

  1. To appraise the quality of political communication during the 2015 election in Nigeria
  2. To determine the impact of political communication on the success of 2015 election.
  3. To find out if there is an impact of political communication on the development of Nigeria.

1.8 Research Hypothesis

Hypothesis One
  • Hi: There is a positive impact of political communication on the success of 2015 election
  • Hi: There is a negative impact of political communication on the success of 2015 election.
Hypothesis Two
  • Hi: There is a significant impact of political communication on the development of Nigeria
  • Hi: There is no impact of political communication on the development of Nigeria.

1.9 Significance of the Study

This research work will be of immense help to the following group of individuals;

This research work will be of immense help to the researcher as it will help him to know more on the quality of political communication during the 2015 election in Nigeria.

This study will also be of great importance to politicians in the country as it will enrich their knowledge on the quality of political communication during the 2015 election in Nigeria.

This study will be of great importance to students and other researchers since it will serve as a reference point for the upcoming researchers.

This research work will also be of immense help to the general public as it will help the policy makers to enact laws that will guide the quality of political communication in Nigeria.


1.10 Scope and Limitations of the Study

The scope of the study gives a brief description of the area of coverage of the study or area of concentration (Olatunji, Adeeko and Kasali, 2012). In this study, the scope is the press coverage of political parties in the 2015 general elections in Enugu state Nigeria

Limitations are those restrictions deliberately imposed in the study by the investigator himself (Olatunji, et al 2012). The time frame and the methodology adopted for the study was an obvious limitation to the research. That is because the researcher exclusively selected only the 2015 presidential election. Hence, this posed a serious threat to the generalization of the findings


1.11 Conceptual Clarification of Terms

Prominence:

It is defined as the placement of political parties” stories on some strategic positions on the pages of the newspapers.

Theme of Coverage:

This is defined as the subject matterof a newsstory by the media in the 2015 presidential election in Nigeria, which can either be:

  1. Scandalous (financial and sex),
  2. Policy(economic, unemployment and security),
  3. Advocacy(campaign events, prediction, opinion poll and endorsement),
  4. Character of the candidates and
  5. Voting/voters” information.

Chapter Five


Summary, Conclusion and Recommendation

5.1 Introduction

This chapter presents the summary of the study, conclusion and recommendations based on the findings from the study.


5.2 Summary

This study aimed at having an overview of the appraisals of the quality of the political communication during the 2015 General elections. The study opened with chapter one where the statement of the problem was clearly defined.

The study objectives and research hypotheses were defined and formulated respectively. The study reviewed related and relevant literatures. The chapter two gave the conceptual framework, empirical and theoretical studies. The third chapter described the methodology employed by the researcher in collecting both the primary and the secondary data. The research method employed here is the descriptive survey method. The study analyzed and presented the data collected in tables and the hypotheses were tested using the Chi square while the fifth chapter gives the study summary and conclusion.


5.3 Conclusions and Recommendations

In this study we found out that there is a positive impact of political communication on the success of 2015 election and there is a significant impact of political communication on the development of Nigeria.


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