Authors: Chudi Okwechime, Ph. D.
In an evolving democracy like Nigeria it is doubtful how much political advertisements can impact on the outcome of elections. This study assesses the effect of political advertising on the voting pattern of Nigerians during the 2007 presidential election. This election is particularly worthy of scrutiny because it marked an unprecedented transition from one elected government to another in Nigeria after years of military dictatorship. Although judged as peaceful, the election is said to have been flawed by serious electoral malpractices; and the country is once more neck-deep in preparations for a similar election in 2015. The study is limited to advertising in newspapers which carried mostly full page advertisements in full colours and employed the survey technique using a structured questionnaire to gather data from respondents. Three hundred and eighty-five copies of these were distributed across the six geopolitical zones of the country and the Federal Capital Territory, with 370 copies duly completed and returned. The study relied on two rhetorical theories – Muzafer Sherif’s Social Judgment theory and George Herbert Mead’s theory of Symbolic Interactionism. Frequency count and simple percentages were used for the presentation and analysis of findings. Descriptive statistics were used to address research questions and the hypotheses were tested with the Pearson Product-Moment Correlation. The study is significant in that it has provided empirical evidence that during 2007 Presidential election in Nigeria, political advertisements in newspapers provided new and convincing information about the candidates; facilitated voters’ understanding of the issues canvassed; helped increase the approval rating of favoured candidates; and significantly reinforced their decision to vote for particular candidates but failed to influence changes in voting pattern. In view of its findings, the study recommends that although political advertising is highly beneficial in the political mobilization process, it cannot replace rallies and other forms of interpersonal communication in Nigeria.
Keywords: Political advertising, newspapers, communication, voters, political candidates, presidential election