INFLUENCE OF NEWSPAPER POLITICAL REPORTS ON VOTING BEHAVIOUR
The purpose of this study is to determine the impact of newspaper political reports on electorate voting behaviour. It sought to ascertain, through an opinion poll, the extent to which electorates' voting behaviour is influenced by their exposure to newspaper political reports, using Enugu state local government areas (North and South) as a case study.
An empirical survey of five (5) of Enugu Local Government's twenty (20) wards was undertaken. While collecting data, two newspapers, the Daily Star and the Newsman, were employed to determine the influence their political reports had on the voting behaviour of their audience readers.
The sample was drawn at random from five of the twenty wards to determine who voted in the March 2003 Governorship Election, using a stratified sampling strategy in terms of geography.
The associated literature, particularly in mass communication, psychology, and political science, was thoroughly studied for the theoretical framework and study guide. Furthermore, three study hypotheses were evaluated and analysed with the help of a statistical table and basic percentages.
In terms of findings, this study revealed that newspaper political reporting have some influence on the voting behaviour of Enugu electorates.
Similarly, exposing electorates to newspaper political stories raises their awareness.
Meanwhile, the study found that a combination of factors including as interpersonal communication, party affiliation, information from other media, and newspaper political reports were the primary predictors of Enugu electorate voting behaviour.
Finally, the study's findings will assist politicians, political reporters, and media executives in determining how to channel their political messaging to accomplish desired impacts.
1.1 BACKGROUND OF THE STUDY:
It is widely recognised that the mass media play incalculable roles in matters of public attention, public opinion, and attitude formation. “Pioneer investigators accepted popular impressions of the media as omnipotent and capable of being used for manipulative purposes,” write James Curran et al (1977).
According to Edwin Emery et al (1974), “newspapers everywhere are available channels through which political leaders express their views and seek public support for their policies.”
Many studies on the influence of mass media on the audience have been undertaken. Unfortunately, none of these studies have looked at the impact of political messaging in newspapers on their readers. This is significant, especially given that newspapers precede all other forms of public communication and have a huge impact on society.
The newspaper serves the primary roles of informing, entertaining, educating, and serving the propaganda needs of society. In terms of serving the propagandist needs of society, the newspaper generally plays a vital role in national growth, particularly during political elections.
The great American leader, George Washington, has likewise emphasised the press's vital role in political institutions. He once said that if he had to choose between a government without the press and a press without the government, he would chose the latter.
Sunday Olagunju, a Times International columnist (September 23, 1985), writes that “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 unwavering recognition of the powerful role of the press.”
The enormous political knowledge provided by newspaper political reportage has most likely had a significant impact on the size, quality, and evolution of political activities in society. According to Frank Ugboaja's “communication policies in Nigeria” (1980),
“Nigeria therefore had its newspapers to fight the cold wars that eventually led to the lifting of the shackles of colonialism on 1st October, 1960, after having been under British colonial tutelage for nearly half a country.”
As a result, Nigeria acquired political independence through the formidable “wings” of the press.
Since the country's independence in 1960, the Nigerian press has been accused of diverting from its combative journalism to become a simple tune-dancer of the drums banged by its masters.
In light of the foregoing, we deemed it necessary to investigate the influence of newspaper reports on voting behaviour of electorates, taking into account the fact that, while studies on press coverage of political campaigns have been conducted, no adequate report on voting behaviour of electorates has been provided.
As a result, the purpose of this study is to determine the extent to which newspaper political stories influenced the voting behaviour of Enugu electorates during the March 2003 governorship election in Nigeria.
1.2 STATEMENT OF THE RESEARCH PROBLEM
Without a question, communication is critical for the conduct of governments. Some researchers refer to it as the nervous system of the body politic, as it transmits messages between the various sections.
An uncommunicated incident is analogous to the hypothetical tree that fell in the market place and no one heard about it. The excommunicated event, like the fallen tree, fails to make an impression.
However, there have been questions raised about how much the newspaper, as a print medium of mass communication, has been able to contribute to one of its fundamental goals of inspiring behaviour.
Election is a sociopolitical event that is initiated in order to change the administration. Participating in the election of political leaders is everyone's civic responsibility. To do so, electorates require some type of indoctrination in political issues and electoral procedures. Newspapers are an important tool for disseminating this political attitude.
Again, the content of such messages invariably influences how voters perceive them as positive, unfavourable, trustworthy, or incredible.
Those that utilise newspapers to disseminate political information must have reasoned that it is valuable and hence has some impact.
In light of this, our objective is to determine the amount to which newspaper political reporting influence the voting behaviour of Enugu electorates, at least from February to March 2003.
During that time, there were reports of election malpractices and party campaigns with unquantifiable promises, all in an attempt to win voters' consciences in the Governorship race.
The study is motivated by the belief that newspapers can harm the reputation of any party or candidate, add their own interpretation to a political news article, take a stand in favour of a candidate or political party, and, most importantly, affect public opinion.
It is envisaged that the responses to our findings will aid in determining the impact of newspaper political coverage on the voting behaviour of Enugu electorates.
This study derived some of its parameters from the research of Bernard R. Berelson, Paul F. Lazarsfield, and H. Gandet, among others.
1.3 OBJECTIVES OF THE STUDY
The purpose of this study was to determine, through an opinion poll, how people voted in the March 14, 2003 Governorship General Election as influenced by media political reportage.
We intend to investigate the extent of such political reports on voters. Do news stories, articles, and other political reporting influence voters' voting decisions? Or, are media political stories insufficient to change the voting habits of the electorate?
1.4 significance OF THE STUDY
Many studies have been undertaken on the impact of mass communication on audience behaviour and attitude patterns. Unfortunately, no research has been conducted on the impact of newspaper political stories on voters' voting intentions.
The need for this study derives from the fact that the use of newspapers as a means of disseminating political policy has not been completely explored and utilised.
Factors such as interpersonal communication and party affiliation continue to have a strong influence on electorate voting behaviour. Thus, we want to investigate the extent to which newspaper political reports influence electorate voting behaviour.
That is, whether newspaper political stories raise knowledge, induce or change opinions, or whether these reports are insufficient to induce a change in voter conduct, or whether such political reporting enable or reinforce voter decisions.
We expect that the findings of this study will assist the government and its agencies in making judgements about the best approach to channel political education and will assist media organisations in understanding the proper way to structure political information for their audiences.