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THE PATTERN OF TWITTER USAGE DURING THE 2023 GENERAL ELECTION AMONG UNDER-GRADUATE IN KWARA STATE UNIVERSITY

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DEPARTMENT OF MASS COMMUNICATION

Abstract

Social media platforms have become integral tools for political engagement, enabling individuals to express their opinions, disseminate information, and mobilize support. This study examines the pattern of Twitter usage among undergraduate students in Kwara State University during the 2023 General Election. The research employed a quantitative approach, utilizing a survey questionnaire administered to a randomly selected sample of undergraduate students. The findings revealed that a significant proportion of undergraduate students in Kwara State University actively utilized Twitter during the 2023 General Election. The platform served as a channel for political discussions, information sharing, and political activism. Participants reported using Twitter to express their political views, follow political candidates and parties, and share election-related news and updates. The study identified various patterns of Twitter usage among undergraduate students, including frequency of tweeting, engagement with political hashtags and trending topics, and the role of influential users in shaping political discourse. The analysis also explored the impact of Twitter on political attitudes and behaviour, such as voter mobilization, political polarization, and the formation of online echo chambers.

The study highlights the increasing role of Twitter as a platform for political participation among undergraduate students in Kwara State University during the 2023 General Election. It underscores the importance of social media in shaping political discussions, promoting civic engagement, and influencing electoral outcomes. The findings contribute to the existing literature on social media and political communication, particularly in the context of Nigerian universities. The research work provides a basis for future studies to explore the long-term implications of social media usage on political behaviour and democratic processes in Nigeria.

CHAPTER ONE

1.1       Background to the Study

The impact of Twitter on information dissemination during the 2023 general election in Nigeria can be said to be very significant. Twitter, as a popular social media platform, plays a crucial role in shaping public opinion, facilitating political discourse, and spreading information during elections. Majorly Twitter provides a platform for real-time updates on election-related news, events, and developments. Users can follow political parties, candidates, journalists, and news organizations to receive instant updates, breaking news, and live coverage of campaign rallies, debates, and election results. This enables voters to stay informed and engaged throughout the election process. Twitter allows users to express their opinions, share news articles, and engage in discussions. It provides a level playing field for individuals and organizations to have their voices heard, irrespective of their size or resources. This amplification of voices on Twitter can lead to broader dissemination of information, including alternative viewpoints, grassroots perspectives, and marginalized voices that may not receive as much attention through traditional media channels.

Vaccari et. al (2015) in their study investigated the relationship between political expression and political action on social media, specifically focusing on Twitter users in Italy. The authors examine how lower-threshold political activities, such as expressing opinions and sharing political content, relate to higher-threshold political activities, such as attending offline political events and participating in protests. The findings indicate that individuals who engage in lower-threshold political activities on Twitter, such as expressing opinions and sharing political content, are more likely to engage in higher-threshold political activities offline. This suggests a positive relationship between political expression on social media and offline political action. The study also investigates the moderating effects of political interest and partisan predispositions on this relationship. It finds that individuals with higher levels of political interest and strong partisan attachments are more likely to engage in both political expression and action on social media.

Hashtags play a crucial role in organizing and mobilizing conversations on Twitter. During the 2023 general election, hashtags related to specific candidates, political parties, and electoral issues gain traction and become trending topics. Hashtag campaigns can help consolidate information, rally support, and encourage discussions on key election-related topics. They serve as a tool for users to follow and participate in conversations, contributing to the spread of information and creating awareness around specific election-related issues. Twitter also play a role in fact-checking and debunking misinformation during the 2023 general election. Users often scrutinize claims made by candidates, political parties, and news sources, leading to discussions and the exposure of false or misleading information. Fact-checkers and organizations dedicated to debunking misinformation can actively participate in these conversations, helping to promote accurate information and counteract the spread of false narratives.

Twitter has become a powerful platform for political discourse and information dissemination, especially during election periods. Understanding how undergraduates utilize Twitter during such events will provide valuable insights into their engagement, preferences, and the overall impact of social media on political participation.

Boulianne (2015) in a research work titled “Social media use and participation” analyzed the different dimensions of political participation, including voting, political knowledge, political discussion, political efficacy, and online activism. The findings of Boulianne (2015) indicate a positive and significant relationship between social media use and political participation. Specifically, the study highlights that social media use is associated with increased political knowledge, political discussion, political efficacy, and online activism. However, the effect size varies depending on the specific form of political participation and the social media platform under examination. The study concludes by discussing the implications of these findings for political engagement and participation in the digital age. It emphasizes the need for further research to understand the complex mechanisms underlying the relationship between social media use and political participation.

Gil de Zúñiga, Molyneux & Zheng (2014) in a Journal of Communication on “Social media, political expression, and political participation” examined the relationship between social media use, political expression, and political participation using a panel analysis. The authors explore the lagged and concurrent relationships between these variables to better understand the dynamics of political engagement on social media platforms. The findings suggest that social media use is positively associated with political expression. Furthermore, the study reveals a reciprocal relationship between social media use and political participation, indicating that individuals who engage in political expression on social media platforms are more likely to engage in offline political activities as well. The study also considers the role of political interest and social capital in shaping the relationship between social media use, political expression, and political participation. It provides insights into the mechanisms through which social media can influence political engagement.

Kruikemeier et. al (2014) examined the effects of personalized and interactive online political communication on individuals’ political attitudes and engagement. The authors investigate how personalized political messages and interactive elements within online communication can influence political outcomes. The research utilizes an online experiment conducted in the Netherlands, where participants were exposed to different conditions of online political communication. The study examines the effects of personalized political messages, interactivity (the ability to actively engage with the content), and a combination of both. The findings suggest that personalized political messages have a positive impact on political involvement, political efficacy, and political knowledge. Furthermore, interactive elements within online political communication enhance the effects of personalized messages on political involvement and knowledge.

In the work of Chadwick & Dennis (2018), the authors explored the changing landscape of media and journalism in the digital age, focusing on the interactions and dynamics between social media, professional media, and hybrid media. The authors examine theoretical approaches and empirical evidence to understand the role of social media in shaping journalism practices and media ecosystems. The authors also present empirical evidence from studies that investigate the relationship between social media and journalism. They explore the implications of social media use for news production, distribution, consumption, and engagement. The article highlights the challenges and opportunities that arise from the integration of social media into the journalistic landscape. Additionally, the study discusses the emergence of hybrid media forms, which combine elements of traditional journalism and social media practices. It examines the ways in which hybrid media organizations operate and the effects of these new forms of media on the journalism profession.

Lee et. al (2018) explores the changing landscape of media and journalism in the digital age, focusing on the interactions and dynamics between social media, professional media, and hybrid media. The authors examine theoretical approaches and empirical evidence to understand the role of social media in shaping journalism practices and media ecosystems. The authors also present empirical evidence from studies that investigate the relationship between social media and journalism. They explore the implications of social media use for news production, distribution, consumption, and engagement. The article highlights the challenges and opportunities that arise from the integration of social media into the journalistic landscape. Additionally, the study discusses the emergence of hybrid media forms, which combine elements of traditional journalism and social media practices. It examines the ways in which hybrid media organizations operate and the effects of these new forms of media on the journalism profession.

1.2       Statement of the Problem

The problem statement for the research work is to investigate how undergraduate students in Kwara State University use Twitter during the just concluded 2023 general election in Nigeria. The study aims to identify the prevalence of the usage of Twitter as a political tool for communication, campaigning and political upsets during the 2023 general election in Nigeria. The types of political messages that are shared, and the factors that influence Twitter usage among undergraduate students during the election are of great priority and gain to this research work. The research also seeks to examine the impact of Twitter on political participation among undergraduate students and how it influences their voting behaviour. Tumasjan et al. (2010) analyze the use of Twitter during the 2009 German federal election campaign. They argue that Twitter has become an important platform for political communication and that it has the potential to influence political opinion and behaviour. It is against this backdrop that this research work stands to argue for or against the work of Tumasjan et al. (2010) using Nigeria’s 2023 general election as a significant tool for the research.

1.3       Research Objectives

The general objective of this study is to establish the pattern of Twitter usage during the 2023 general election among undergraduates in Kwara State University. The following specific objectives guide this study;

  1. To assess the frequency and duration of Twitter usage among undergraduate students during the 2023 general election campaign.
  2. To identify the main topics and themes discussed on Twitter related to the election.
  3. To explore the perception and attitudes of undergraduate students towards political candidates and parties on Twitter.
  4. To analyze the influence of Twitter on the political opinions and behaviours of undergraduate students.
  5. To evaluate the role of Twitter in shaping the political awareness and engagement of undergraduate students.

1.4       Research Questions

The following research questions guide this study;

  1. How often and for how long do undergraduate students use Twitter during the 2023 general election campaign?
  2. What are the most common topics and themes discussed on Twitter related to the election, according to undergraduate students?
  3. What are the attitudes and perceptions of undergraduate students towards political candidates and parties on Twitter, and how do these differ from other forms of media?
  4. To what extent does Twitter influence the political opinions and behaviours of undergraduate students, and how does this compare to other sources of information?
  5. How does Twitter shape the political awareness and engagement of undergraduate students, and what factors contribute to this?

1.5       Research Hypothesis

  • H1: There is a significant difference in the pattern of Twitter usage during the 2023 general election among undergraduate students in Kwara State University.
  • H2: There is a correlation between the frequency of Twitter usage and political engagement among undergraduate students in Kwara State University during the 2023 general election.
  • H3: The level of political information obtained through Twitter usage differs among undergraduate students in Kwara State University during the 2023 general election.

1.6       Significance of the Study

The basic essence of every research work is to contribute or modify existing knowledge in the field either for academic satisfaction or to find solutions as well as apply them to solve problems. Studying the pattern of Twitter usage during the 2023 general election among undergraduate students in Kwara State University can have several important implications. Notably, it helps to shed light on how social media is changing the way that young people engage with politics, and how this might impact future elections. Also, it provides insights into the types of issues that are most important to young people during election campaigns, and how these differ from other age groups. Furthermore, it helps to identify ways in which political parties and candidates can better engage with young people on social media platforms like Twitter. Finally, it will contribute to a better understanding of the role of social media in shaping political opinions and behaviours among undergraduate students in Nigeria.

1.7       Scope of the Study

The scope of this research work “The pattern of Twitter usage during the 2023 general election among undergraduate students in Kwara State University” would be limited to undergraduate students who attend Kwara State University in Nigeria, and who use Twitter during the 2023 general election campaign. The study would focus on the frequency and duration of Twitter usage during the election, the main topics and themes discussed on Twitter related to the election, the attitudes and perceptions of undergraduate students towards political candidates and parties on Twitter, and the influence of Twitter on the political opinions and behaviours of undergraduate students. It would not extend to other universities or regions in Nigeria, nor would it include other social media platforms or types of media.

1.8       Limitations of the Study

Researching the topic “The Pattern of Twitter Usage During the 2023 General Election Among Undergraduates in Kwara State University” may come with certain limitations. Here are some potential limitations you might encounter:

Sample representativeness: One limitation is the need to ensure that the sample of undergraduate students from Kwara State University is representative of the entire population. If the sample is not representative, the findings may not be applicable to all undergraduate students in the university or generalize to the wider population.

Self-reporting bias: The research may heavily rely on self-reported data, such as surveys or interviews, to gather information on Twitter usage during the election. However, self-reporting can be influenced by recall bias or social desirability bias, leading to inaccurate or biased information. People may overstate or understate their Twitter usage or provide socially desirable responses.

Social media platform changes: Twitter’s platform and features can change rapidly, making it difficult to study a specific period, such as the 2023 general election. The platform’s algorithms, interface, and user behaviours may evolve, affecting the patterns of Twitter usage. The research findings may become outdated or less relevant if there are significant changes in Twitter’s functionality or policies.

Ethical considerations: Conducting research involving human participants requires careful attention to ethical guidelines. Ensuring informed consent, protecting participants’ privacy and confidentiality, and addressing potential harm or risks associated with data collection and analysis are crucial aspects. Ethical constraints may limit the scope or methods of the research.

1.9       Operational definition of Terms

Twitter usage: The frequency and duration of Twitter activity during the 2023 general election campaign, including the number of tweets, retweets, likes, and comments made by undergraduate students at Kwara State University.

Pattern: the types of topics, themes, and opinions that are most commonly discussed on Twitter related to the election, as well as the patterns of engagement with different types of content (e.g., videos, images, articles).

Undergraduate students: It refers to a group of individuals who are currently enrolled in an undergraduate program.

2023 general election: This refers to the national election that is scheduled to take place in Nigeria in 2023, including the different political parties, candidates, and issues that are part of the election campaign.

Kwara State University: It is an institution of learning, for the use of this study it entails students from various colleges and departments in the institution. The institution is a state-owned university located in Ilorin, Kwara State, Nigeria. 

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