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This research examined the influence of television political advertising on electorate perception of candidate in the 2015 presidential election using Akure south local government as a case study. The study sought to find out the extent to which the electorates’ in Ondo state were exposed to political advertisement and limited to advertisement on television which mostly portray the vision of the presidential candidates.
The study employed the survey research design using a structured questionnaire to gather data from respondents. Five hundred and ninety two copies of questionnaires were distributed across the four selected wards in Akure South local government, with four hundred and fifty six copies duly completed and returned. The research work relied on three theories: Perception theory, Source credibility theory and Agenda setting theory. Descriptive statistics was used to analyze and provide answers to the research questions of the study while inferential statistics were used for the hypotheses. The multi-stage sampling technique was adopted for this study, a state was randomly selected through balloting in South-West Nigeria; this was carried out so as to give equal chance of representation for all the states in South-West to be part of the study.
The findings indicated that; the electorates’ in Ondo state were well exposed to political advertisement on television, the respondents were influenced in their choice of presidential candidate to the extent that they perceived the messages to be credible and changed their perception towards the candidate. In support of the above, over 76% of the respondents watched the Presidential televised advertisement in 2015.
In the light of the findings, the study concluded that television political advertisement was an essential factor in the political decisions of the electorates’, Television, an electronic audio-visual media aid use for disseminating information, has gained wide acceptance and use among Nigerians as observed in this study. Finally, it was recommended that since literacy level among Nigerians is on the increase, more authentic source of accessing information about political candidates should be sourced.
Keywords: Influence, Source Credibility, Agenda Setting and Perception
1.1 Background to the Study
Communication is very vital in human relationship; it is through it we get to know more about happenings around us. In this sense, it is a viable means of influencing people’s opinion either positively or negatively. Opubor (1976) asserts that human communication is a flexible technique through which man adapts to his environment and adapts the environment to himself for the purpose of achieving greater control over it. In essence, human activities and aspirations cannot be achieved without communication. Clegg (2005) notes that “communication is not just the sharing of information among people but also a process of ‘‘creating, shaping, and maintaining relationships and enacting shared values, common culture, agreed goals, and means for their achievement’’ (p.76). While man is said to be a political animal with a natural inclination to be partisan, communication drives the political activities of man.
In political communication (political advertisement), the primary aim of the political party and candidates is to get the electorates favourably disposed to the party. Electorates are lured through messages or statements projecting the party in a positive light, dissuading the electorate from whatever misgivings they might harbor against the party and persuading them to abandon the opposition. Due to the relevance of communication to governance and democracy, political advertisements have become an essential aspect of communication in the democracies of the world”. (Kaid, 2005).
Politics as the dynamics surrounding power is a universal process which occurs at all times. Politics is described as issues that are concerned with acquiring or exercising power within a group or organization, the science and art of government. Hornby (1995) defines politics as the form of organization, administration and management of the state. It may be said, that politics is the generalized process by which the struggle over power in the society is resolved, the form or arena where control of the economy and issues concerning a nation are negotiated and addressed. Wilson (1983) describes it as a humble way of getting votes from the poor and campaign funds from the rich by assuring to protect each against the other. (p. 32). In other words, politics entails interaction by all parties involved in persuading and mobilizing to fit into the socio-political system through effective communication.
Eyre (1953) posits that, “communication is not just the sharing of information; it is the giving of understandable information and receiving and understanding the message” (p. 26). This means that communication is instrumental and has effect in political process. In political election, therefore, the parties involved canvass to win the sympathy of the electorates. Political parties/ candidates in a bid to interact with the voters employ every available means of communication to educate and enlighten the audience. It is through these messages that the audience learns consciously or unconsciously certain things about parties and their candidate. Nigeria politics since inception has also thrived on political communication.
As a form of communication, advertising is important in any business venture, starting from hawkers on the street, market men and women who on a daily basis try to convince buyers, to the manufacturers that engage in the production of goods and services. To have and keep buyers, one has to advertise. In the process of advertising, mouthwatering and interesting promises are made. Advertising has grown to be an important branch of politics in every democratic system of government to the extent that parties engage the services of advertising agencies who express the need for better leadership in the most convincing way to the electorate.
Kaid and Holtz-Bacha (2006) define political advertising as “any controlled message communicated through any channel designed to promote the political interests of individuals, parties, groups, government, or other organizations” (p. 4). Using this broader definition, political advertising is distinguished from other campaign communication by the source control of the message and the absence of media interpretation or framing, and from interpersonal communication by the use of mass communication channels. Furthermore, this broader definition of the concept applies to different political marketing campaign contexts.
Political advert can be categorized as either paid or free media messages. The paid messages are information from the mass media (radio, television, newspapers and magazines) controlled by campaign sources of which scope and content are limited only by libel laws, ethics and money available for them. While free media messages are news stories, analysis, editorial comments, interviews, debates and discussion programmes. These are solely source by the mass media as part of their functions to enlighten and educate the electorate during political campaigns through their various programmes. Political advertising is all forms of adverts pertaining to building support for any and all political campaigns including candidates running for office, ballot measures, and political activism. Ansolabere and Iyenga (1995) argue that political advertising has become a veritable tool for selling candidates of political parties during elections campaign. One of the most significant changes in Nigerian politics in the past few years has been the increase in audience exposure to political adverts especially presidential candidates of various political parties. Political advertising are majorly designed to achieve a specific objective in political communication.
During the first and second republics, election rallies served as the major forms of advertising for the candidates and the past two decades have witnessed an increase in the use of political advertising. Television has been used to convey political candidate’s message to the people. Making adverts on television has turned into a big industry engaging photographers, videographers that will produce the adverts to make it colourful, artists who compose songs and mostly engaging a brand manager who gives the candidate a good packaging taking away the fact that one their primary function is to give a product good packaging and not people
In the past, electoral candidates were selected in backroom caucuses of politicians, business leaders, elites, who select candidates that would protect their interests. This undemocratic practice, which put disproportionate men in position of leadership either at state or federal level, has now faded into history. In the 2015 presidential election, Nigeria witnessed an increase in the number and style of political advertising. Political parties mounted one form of political advertising or the other, to bring to the attention of the electorates, the political parties, manifesto and contestant for the office. Even though different media were used, this study focuses on television advertisement and how it affected electorates’ perception of presidential candidates. Nkana (2015) the most common form of political advertisement is television advertisement because of its pictorial impact.
Prior to the 2015 elections, there have been other elections (1979, 1983, 2004, 2009, and 2011) where TV adverts were used. However, the 2015 presidential election may be described as a turning point in the history of the country, witnessing the emergence of a man who had lost at three different times. Therefore the study examines how Television adverts influenced the perception of electorate.
1.2 Statement of the Problem
Over the years, Nigeria’s elections have usually witnessed low turnouts of voters regardless of the several appeals made through various adverts on television. The voting age population of Nigeria was put at 91,669,056 in 2015. While 67,422,005 people registered and just 29,432,083people turned out to vote in the 2015 presidential election according to the International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance (2015).
Interestingly, despite the dwindling turnouts of electorates, political parties still spend huge amount of money on television adverts and others loaded with exaggerated promises, hate and negative messages about their opponents targeted at gaining the sympathy of the electorates. The 2015 presidential advertisements witnessed loads of name calling, mudslinging candidates’ images, hate and attack messages. Researchers have directed their apparatus towards finding a relationship between candidate success in election and political advertising. The decision on whom to vote for depends on variables such as political interest, political efficacy, discharging of civil duties and psychological pressure. The question then is why do political parties still spend so much money on television advertising? The 2015 presidential election was filled with deadly adverts, PDP supporters referred the APC candidate as someone with analogue brain, dictator and too old to rule while APC supporters saw PDP candidate as clueless and man who used his poor background of having no shoes to deceive the masses and rip them off their votes.
There were several negative and derogatory advertisements from the two most popular parties, but despite that, electorates went ahead and voted for the old dictator who was referred to as a man with analogue brain. The hates advertisements were enough for both PDP and APC to lose the election and give room for other party candidate. It has been observed that instead of these intervening variables helping or heightening the effect of television political adverts on electorate, they actually combine to only serve as, reinforcement of pre-existing attitudes, crystallization of latent loyalties and activation of those predisposed to support the campaign.
This research work aims to find out the influence of Television political advertisements on electorates’ perception and choice of candidates in the 2015 presidential election
1.3 Objective of the Study
The general objective of this study is to find out the influence of television political advertising on electorate perception of 2015presidential candidates. The specific objectives are to:
1. find out the extent to which television advertisements create awareness for the 2015 presidential candidates;
2. determine electorates’ perception of the nature of television political advertisements on the 2015 presidential candidates;
3. examine the extent to which exposure to television advertisements influence electorates’ perception of the 2015 presidential candidates; and
4. Find out the extent to which messages portrayed in the television advertisements influenced electorates’ choice of 2015 presidential candidates.
1.4 Research Questions
This research set out to answer the following questions:
1. To what extent does television advertisements create awareness for the 2015 presidential candidates?
2. How do electorates’ perceive the nature of television advertisements on 2015 presidential candidates?
3. In what ways does exposure to television advertisements influence electorates’ perception of the 2015 presidential candidates?
4. To what extent does the messages portrayed in the television advertisements influence electorates’ choice of 2015 presidential candidates?
The following hypotheses were tested at 0.05 level of significance for this study:
H01: Television political advertisements did not significantly influence electorates’ perception of the 2015 presidential candidates.
H02: Television political advertisements did not significantly influence electorates’ attitude towards the 2015 presidential candidates.
1.6 Significance of the Study
This study would be significant to the political campaign planners, the political parties, the academic community, the media, broadcasters and the general public.
It is hoped that the findings of this study would reveal the extent to which television adverts influenced electorates’ perception of the campaign the electorates watched on Television during the last presidential election in Nigeria. It would reveal areas of weaknesses and strengths and where changes could be effected in the future so as to achieve the goal of any campaign set out for the purpose of winning the audience favour towards a political candidate. It is hoped that the study would reveal new challenges in the area of the influence of political campaign on electorates’ thus redefining research and expanding knowledge. This study would provide empirical data on the role political advertisements play in influencing the choice of electoral candidates.
1.7 Scope of the Study
The study is restricted to the influence of television campaign on electorates’ perception and choice of candidates in the 2015 presidential election. Thus the scope of the research is limited to the 2015 presidential election in exclusion to other elections during the period. Equally, the work focused on analyzing audience reaction towards the televised campaign during the presidential election not other campaign in the other media of communication. Choosing the period frame is to help define “a moment in time” and allow for replicability.
Registered voters during the 2015 presidential election (public servants, lecturers, bankers, stock brokers, etc) residing in Akure South Local Government Area of Ondo State who were exposed to the televised presidential campaign in the 2015 election would be the public considered in this study. The study is restricted to the influence of television political advertising on electorate’s perception of 2015 presidential candidates and not the Gubernatorial, Senatorial or House of Representatives’ televised adverts in the 2015 elections.
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