THE INFLUENCE OF MESSAGE FRAMING ON VOTING BEHAVIOUR IN SOUTH-EAST NIGERIA IN THE 2015 PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION
As a political requisite, political parties invest in message framing. This is because message framing is seen as the nucleus for persuading voters into choosing and voting in candidates. This is why the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) and the All Progressive Congress (APC) political parties used message framing as their political communication strategy while the campaign lasted to capture the attention of eligible voters and spur voting action in the 2015 presidential election. This study set to find out the direction of the messages and extent to which it made for effective voting decision and action in the 2015 presidential election. Four research questions were generated to give more depth and answers to this objective. Content and survey analysis were used to gather data for the study. Four research objectives were developed for the study. Content analysis was used to answer the first question while the survey was used to answer research questions two, three and four. Purposive sampling was used to arrive at the three states that were studied in South-East Nigeria. The Australian National Statistical Service (NSS) Online calculator was used to derive a sample size of 385 (of which 384 were returned-304 voters at the 2015 presidential elections and 80 eligible voters) respondents that were used in the questionnaire while 28 issues of The Nration and Daily Sun newspapers were drawn to analyze the contents of political parties’ advertorials. The rational choice theory was used to explain the influence of message framing on the decision-making of respondents. Results were presented in tables, pie-charts and percentages. Findings revealed that political parties advertorials were positively frames (78%) but the negative advertorials (22%) used by political parties during the campaign influenced the respondents into believing that messages were more negatively framed. this is because of string frames such as hate speech and attack frames. It was also discovered that did not only influence their choice but structure their opinion of the parties. The frames helped define/structure their opinion and choice of party. The study, therefore, recommends that political parties and publicists study and understand the nature of the campaign, the makeup of targeted voters and the environment so that they produce advertorials that appeal to the publics’ reason and influence voting action.
Keywords: Message. Framing. Influence. Voters. Behaviour.