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1.1 Background of study
It is a commonly held view that mass media play unquantifiable roles in matters of public interest, public opinion and formation of attitude. According to James Curran et al (1977), “pioneer investigators accepted popular impressions of the media as omnipotent and capable of being employed for manipulative purposes”, Thus, Edwin Emery et al (1974), said, “newspapers everywhere are available channels through which political leaders express their views and seek to rally public backing for their policies”.
Many researchers have been conducted on the effects of mass media on the audience. The unfortunate thing, however, is that none of these studies has bothered on the effect of newspaper political messages on the audience. This is pertinent, especially as newspaper predates all the other media of mass communication as well as exerts tremendous impact on the society.
The newspaper performs the primary functions of informing, entertaining, educating, and serving the propaganda needs of the society, with regard to the propaganda needs of the society, the newspaper generally plays a critical role in National development, especially during political elections.
The powerful role of the press in political institution has also been highlighted by the great American leader, George Washing ton. He once remarked that if he were asked to choose between a government without the press, or press without government, he would opt for the latter. According to Sunday Olagunju, a columnist with the Times International (September 23, 1985), “great leaders such as Lenin of Russia, Bismarck of Germany, Attorturk of Turkey, Napoleon Bonar parti of France and even Chamberlain of Britain, succeeded because of their unalloyed recognition of the powerful role of the press”.
The tremendous political knowledge generated by political reports in newspapers have probably had a lot of impact on the growth, quality and development of political activities in the society. This is given credence by frank Ugboaja, who asserted in his “communication policies in Nigeria” (1980), that “Nigeria therefore had its newspapers to fight the cold wars that eventually led to the lifting of the shackles of colonialisne on 1st October, 1960, after having been under British colonial tutelage for nearly half a country.
Consequently, Nigeria gained her political independence on the powerful “wings” of the press.
Since Nigeria secured her independence in 1960, the press in this country has been accused of deviating from its militant journalism to a mere tune-dancer of the drums beaten by its owners.
It was in the light of the fore-going that we deemed it necessary to study the influence of newspaper reports on voting behaviour of electorates, taking cognizance of the fact that even though studies have been conducted on press coverage of political campaigns, not adequate report has been given on the voting behaviour of the electorates. Thus, this study is set out to inquire the extent to which newspaper political reports influenced the voting behaviour of the Enugu electorates during March, 2003, Governorship election in Nigeria.
1.2 STATEMENT OF THE RESEARCH PROBLEM
Undoubtedly, communication is essential for the conduct of polities. Some scholars have called it the nervous system of the body politic, transmitting messages among the various parts. An event that is not communicated is like the hypothetical tree that fell in the market place and nobody heard about it. Just as the fallen tree fails to be heard, so the excommunicated event fails to have effect.
However, there have been doubts on how much the newspaper as a print medium of mass communication, has been able to contribute to one of its primary objectives of inducing behaviour.
Election is a socio-political affair which is initiated for then change of government. It is a civic responsibility of all and sundry to participate in the election of political leaders. To do this therefore, the electorates need some kind of orientation in the political affairs and electorate procedures. Newspaper constitutes major medium through which this political orientation could be disseminated.
Again, the content of such messages invariably affects their assessment by the electorates as either favourable, unfavourable, credible or incredible.
Those who use newspapers as a medium for dissemination of political reports must have reasoned that it confers some usefulness and thus, have some impact.
In the light of these, therefore, our intention is to find out the extent to which newspaper political reports affects the voting behaviour of the Enugu electorates, at least within the period of February to March, 2003.
That very period was characterized by intense political struggles, reports of election malpractices and party campaigns, with unquantifiable promises, all in attempt to win voters consciences in the Governorship election.
The study is prompted by the fact that newspapers are believed to be able to damage the prestige of any party or candidate, add its own interpretation to a political newstory, give stance to favour a candidate or political party, and above all, influence public opinion.
It is hoped that answers to our findings will help to ascertain the influence of newspaper political reports on the voting behaviour of Enugu electorates.
This study drew some of its parameters from studies of Bernard R. Berelson, Paul F. Lazarsfield, H. Gandet amidst other scholars.
1.3 OBJECTIVES OF THE STUDY
This study aimed at finding out through opinion survey, the voting during the 2011 and 2015 General Election, as influenced by the newspaper political reports.
1. Investigate the influence of media reporting on voting behaviour in Nigeria during the presidential elections of 2011 and 2015
2. Examine the composite influence of media reporting and voting behaviour on leadership ascendancy during 2011 and 2015 presidential electons
3. Examine the manner, trend and language of the frequency of newspaper and television reporting of Presidential elections of the period under study 2011 and 2015
1.4 Research Questions
In giving direction to this work, the following research questions were asked
i. How did media reporting influence voting behaviour in Nigeria during the presidential elections conducted in 2011 and 2015?
ii. What is the nature of the influence exerted by the media on leadership ascendancy in Nigeria during the 2011 and 2015 presidential elections?
The following hypotheses were tested at 0.05 level of significance:
H01: Media reporting has no influence on voting behaviour.
H02: Media reporting has no influence on leadership ascendancy.
1.6 SIGNIFICANCE OF THE STUDY
A lot of researches have been conducted on the influence of mass communication on the behaviour and attitude patterns of audiences. Unfortunately, there has been none done on the influence of newspaper political reports on the voting attitude of electorates. The necessity for this study, therefore, stems from the fact that the use of newspapers as avenue for political policy dissemination, has not been fully developed and utilized.
Factors like inter-personal communication and party affiliation still seem to have a predominant influence on the voting behaviour of the electorates. Thus, we intend to discover the extent to which newspaper political reports influence the voting behaviour of electorates. That is whether newspaper political reports create awareness, induce or change opinions, or whether these reports are not just enough to induce a change in the behaviour of electorates, or still, whether such political reports facilitate or reinforce political decisions on the electorates.
We hope that the result of this study will help the government and it’s agencies in making decisions on the best way to channel political education and help the media organizations understand the appropriate way of structuring political information for their audiences.
1.7 Scope of the Study
There is no doubt that media reporting and its influence on voting behavior to leadership ascendancy cuts across every level of election in different times ranging from 2011 and 2015 presidential elections. The study examined the impact of media reporting limited to radio, television and newspaper reporting and its influence on voting behavior to leadership ascendancy. This study is set to determine the type of influence, the factors determining the behaviour and attitude that voters adopt based on information available to them from the media and how it is reported in six states purposively selected from each geopolitical zone in Nigeria with a focus on presidential elections of 2011 and 2015. The focus is chosen because of its currency and the peculiarities of both presidential candidates, Muhammadu Buhari and Goodluck Jonathan contesting in 2011 and 2015 concurrently. This work shall be limited to the reporting of the following television channels: Channels television, African Independent Television, Nigerian Television Authority. This is on the basis that they are widely watched television stations, and covers all the states in Nigeria. And the following newspapers: The Guardian, Vanguard, The Nation, Daily Sun, Leadership and The Punch. This is also selected on their rating as the most widely read newspapers in Nigeria.
1.8 Operational Definition of Terms
The following are terms which occur in the research study which need to be defined to enable the reader understand the appropriate context in which they have been used.
Media Reporting: is the recounting of news worthy events by television, print media, and radio, to inform or educate as comprehensively and accurately as possible, to the public who are expected to be guided by facts, accuracy and objectivity.
Voting Behaviour: is a form of political behaviour exhibited by electorate. The systematic study of the voting patterns of the electorate of a given constituency in an election which provides insight into the sociology of the voters, factors that influence their voting patterns and the direction of their votes.
Election: involves the choice of persons who are to exercise authority on behalf of the people. It is a democratic means by which people choose their representatives or rulers. It allows the people to choose between two or more alternatives. Elections are held in every sphere of life where all the people cannot be directly involved such as clubs, churches, schools, professional associations etc.
Leadership Ascendancy: is the action of leading or directing a group of people or an organization, or the ability to occupy a position of dominant power or influence or the state of being in the leading; governing or controlling influence; domination. Leadership is developed through social influences. On one end of the range a leader is defined by a set of recommended behaviors which separates them from followers. On the other end, leadership is a temporary role that can be filled by anyone who has displayed intelligence, dominance, self-confidence, level of energy and activity, and task-relevant knowledge.
Media Ownership: refers to proprietary, financing and control of mass communication for the purpose of making profit and enhancing the profession of journalism. It is the owning of a medium or media of communications such as newspaper, magazine, television or radio for the dissemination of information, views, opinions and ideas within the confined laws of a country.
Agenda Setting: is an action undertaken by the media whereby the frequency of a particular news item and importance attached to it by the media raises the consciousness and discussion of government and the public thus determining what people will think and talk about in order to make a change.
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