Social media is recognized as a tool of mass education whether constructive or destructive. Its use has been greatly appreciated on different platforms. This study on the perception of Port Harcourt Residents of the Social Media Report on the 2019 elections. The study reviewed related literatures bordering on social media and recognized several scholars. The survey method was adopted and the instrument of questionnaire used. The study found out that the residents of port Harcourt perceived the 2019 Presidential election result was rigged as judging from the results available at several social media handles.
1.1 Background of the Study
No one doubts that the primary function of social media —Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp, Instagram, Youtube, and so on— is to connect people through interactive computer-mediated platforms so they can share information. In the process, social networks are created, some temporarily and others permanently, often for specific purposes. But we also know that the use to which technology is put often depends on the users and the purpose. One of the major uses of social media in recent years is the mediation of the political process and discourse. All over the world, social media provides platforms for politicians to disseminate information in their bid to recruit supporters and donors. The advantage of social media for them lies in the opportunity of direct communication with supporters, by sidetracking regulated mainstream media such as radio, television, newspapers, and magazines as well as press conferences. In the process, issues raised in mainstream media and on political campaigns are subjected to discussion and recast or repackaged in new light on social media. Supporters and opponents of particular issues and arguments are then given the opportunity on various social media platforms to participate in unregulated debate from their own private space. As a result, multiple voices are heard that otherwise would have been silent.
The 2008 presidential campaign of Barack Obama proved the benefits of using social media for political campaigns. Nearly every aspect of that campaign used social media to advance its message to supporters including advertising, advance work, organizing in all 50 states, and fundraising. Facebook, YouTube and especially Twitter were used to let Obama supporters know how he felt about important issues. These social network sites have become significant virtual communities in his campaign, being used frequently and giving legitimacy to their influence in the political arena. From the victory of barrack Obama usage of social media in India increase to large extends, and first time social media was used in movement called India against corruption in year2011. Anticorruption movement organizers and supporters used social media to quickly broadcast information and organize protests. Indians also used social media to show support for India against Corruption (IAC). But the main intention of using social media in this movement is to attract and attach people to this movement, to create awareness among people at low cost. At the end of 2018, it was estimated that Nigeria had more than 92.3 million internet users, which is higher than the number of television users in the country estimated at 6.6 million. Of this, 16 million are Facebook users and Twitter has an estimated 1.8 million monthly users. A study done by PewResearch says nearly 45% of Indian web users connect on social media to discuss politics. With elections around the corner, there is a lot of chatter and speculation about the impact of social networks on the outcome, specifically with the way it has fueled some recent movements. Nigerian parties are becoming increasingly aware of the value of Internet platforms to attract tech-savvy voters. So political parties in urban areas are increasingly becoming tech-savvy, realizing this is the only way to reach out to the articulate young as this could change the democratic political dialogue. While political parties still rely on the traditional and old fashioned ways of campaigning such as posters, rallies, cardboard cutouts as well as house-to-house canvassing to win voters, many politicians realize that social media is set to influence the upcoming vote.
1.2 Statement of the Problem
The 2019 elections must have come and gone but the experience still remain fresh with us. The All Progressive congress (APC) candidate, President Muhammadu Buhari re-contested for the presidential seat and was fiercely opposed by the candidate of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) Alhaji Atiku Abubakar. Both were popular in the contest as the both had millions of followers and supporters. However, the candidate of the APC was declared winner at the end of the day. Looking at the elections, many factors played out during the elections, one of such is the role played by the social media. The rivers state governorship election was conducted and the INEC declared it inconclusively, the social media also played a significant role. The fact here is that the electorates who are mostly internet users are glued to the social media platforms for information. Through the social media platforms news are disseminated, whether fake or real. In this study our focus is to appraise the perception of Port Harcourt residents of the 2019 election result as conveyed by the social media.
1.3 Objectives of the Study
This study seeks to achieve the following objectives:
a. To determine the extent social media influenced voters’ choice of political candidates during the 2019 presidential election
b. To determine if the popularity of presidential candidates during the 2019 presidential election influenced by their social media usage.
c. To determine the extent social media influence voting pattern of electorate during the 2019 presidential election.
1.4 Significance of the Study
It is wise to always assess the aftermath of any event. This is because it will help expose the gaps that were encountered during the process that was not properly addressed. Port Harcourt residents are not new to social media as a good number of them make up the Nigeria internet users’ statistics. This study will help the social media analyst to understand the perception of Port Harcourt residents concerning the 2019 elections. It will prove to the parties that the electorates are fully aware of what is happening in the polity. Furthermore, the study will help for comparison purposes as the residents of other cities can compare their perception to the port Harcourt residents in order to reach a statistically significant conclusion.
1.5 Research Questions
a. To what extent did social media influence voters’ choice of political candidates during the 2019 presidential election
b. Was the popularity of presidential candidates during the 2019 presidential election influenced by their social media usage?
c. To what extent did social media influence voting pattern of electorate during the 2019 presidential election.
1.6 Research Hypotheses
Ho 1: Voter’s choice of political candidates in the 2019 presidential election was not influenced by political communication on social media.
Ho 2: The popularity of Presidential aspirants in the 2019 general election has no significant relationship with their social media use during the election.
Ho 3: Electorate voting pattern during the 2019 elections was not influenced by their exposure to political messages on social media.
1.7 Scope and Limitation
The study is widened to accommodate several literatures on social media and political communication. We examined the role of social media in the 2019 elections as well as the negativity of abusing social media during the election. However, the study is limited to the opinions of the residents of Port Harcourt. Hence, further studies can be further conducted to examine other cities in order to get a national perception.
1.8 Organization of the study
The study is divided into five chapters. Chapter one deals with the study’s introduction and gives a background to the study. Chapter two reviews related and relevant literature. The chapter three gives the research methodology while the chapter four gives the study’s analysis and interpretation of data. The study concludes with chapter five which deals on the summary, conclusion and recommendation.