MEDIA REPORTING, VOTING BEHAVIOUR AND LEADERSHIP ASCENDANCY DURING 2011 AND 2015 PRESIDENTIAL ELECTIONS IN NIGERIA
It is globally accepted that media reporting, to a great extent, influences voters perception of given candidates for public office. The adoption of propaganda in electioneering campaigns including use of hate speeches could make or mar the chances of presidential candidates at leadership ascendancy. Inspite of existing laws regulating reporting of political events, there was massive use of hate speeches and propaganda ahead of the presidential elections of 2011 and 2015 in Nigeria, which led to electoral violence. The study examined media reporting and the nature of its influence on voting behaviour and leadership ascendancy during the said presidential elections.
This study employed survey research design. The study population consisted 160 million, using the 2006 census. Multi stage sampling technique was used in the process of selection. Six states, one from each geopolitical zone (Abia, Bauchi, Kaduna, Lagos, Plateau, Rivers), were purposively selected, with a total population of 30,954,672, (being states that recorded electoral violence cases). Using Yamane’s formula, a sample size of 2,169 was determined. Snowball sampling technique was used in selecting the interviewees; namely, six senators one each from the geopolitical zones, six reporters, and three correspondents from Television houses. The instruments used for data collection were validated questionnaire and interview guide. The Cronbach’s alpha reliability coefficients for the constructs ranged from 0.724 to 0.819.The response rate was 93%. Data from the questionnaire were analyzed using descriptive and inferential statistics. Data from front pages of 6 national newspapers were content-analysed. Data from personal interviews were analysed according to themes.
The findings showed that media reporting had a significant influence on voting behaviour (R2 = 0.388, F(1,2014) = 1274.872; p < 0.05); and on leadership ascendancy (R2 = 0.478, F(1,2014) = 1274.872; p < 0.05). Moreover it was revealed that positive and significant relationships existed between voting behaviour and leadership ascendancy (r = 0.693; p < 0.05). Media reporting and voting behaviour had a significant influence on leadership ascendancy (Adj.R2 = 0.590, F(2,2013)= 1450.562; p < 0.05,). Television was the main media source used that influenced voting behaviour. Other extraneous factors such as monetary inducement, ethnic and religious affiliation, opinion of community leaders, godfatherism, and personal benefits influenced voters’ choice of leadership in 2011 and 2015.
The study concluded that media reporting of party propaganda, hate speeches, and programme promises, influenced voters choice of candidates, thereby determining leadership ascendancy in both 2011 and 2015 presidential elections in Nigeria. It was recommended that the National Broadcasting Commission and Nigerian Press Council should strictly implement the Electoral Act 2010 No. 6 Section 99-102; on media houses that engage in reporting hate speeches and propaganda. In addition, Independent National Electoral Commission should engage in massive political education programmes to promote peaceful conduct of elections.
Keywords: Media reporting, Voting behaviour, Leadership ascendancy, Presidential elections, Media ownership.