THE INFLUENCE OF POLITICAL ADVERTISING MESSAGES ON THE ELECTORATES’ CHOICE OF CANDIDATES
1.1 BACKGROUND OF THE STUDY
Political campaign is organised effort to secure nomination and election of candidates. A political advertisement means an announcement or message of any form which is broadcast in return of payment by a candidate in elections. It does not include letters of editors, news or features articles or editorial comments. The essential task of political advertising is to gain the confidence of the people and influence their vote. Political advertising raises many questions concerning the funding of political campaigns, the reality of political claims and the likelihood of slanderous or libellous claim made by political candidates.
Weaver, Ann and Tinham (1999) suggest the role of televised advertising in electoral system is becoming increasingly important as these messages become a more powerful factor in voter’s decision-making. This change is especially prominent in latin Nigeria, where recent utilization of televised political advertising has allowed people across the country to become more informed about political candidates than ever before.
Available literature suggest that one important predictor of voter decision- making are candidate evaluation developed ,in part , through political advertising (Miller et al.1986).Political consultants and candidates rely increasingly on television advertising to increase their candidates evaluation and influence voters during elections (O cass, 2005). But what factors influence the respondent’s evaluations of the candidate’s image? Research evidence demonstrates a powerful relationship between respondents cognitive thoughts (Tybout et al; 1978; Wright, 1973) and emotion response to political advertising as prime influence factors (madden et al., 1988).
Likewise, evidence suggests that candidate image evaluation are strongly associated with the valence of the message strategy (Tedesco, 2002), Moreover, the literature suggest that campaign message strategy can influence how people vote and what people think the election is about when they vote (Jamieson, 1984). Negative campaigns focus on political scandals as their thematic contents to make an argument against the opposing candidate (Kaid and Bystrom, 1987). Such ads are often perceived as uninformative and untruthful (Change et al., 1998), resulting in negativism toward the political process and ultimately producing citizen disgust with political campaigns (Pinklenton et al., 2002).
Although extensive research has been conducted on political advertising particularly on the effect or negative advertising, this study proposes to compare advertising evaluations across four message strategies (competitive, direct comparative, indirect comparative and attacking) in televised political advertising as moderators between emotions/cognitions and these evaluations.
Most professional practitioners and academic researchers generally classify political advertising into three message categories:
Positive ads, also identified as competitive ads, which include only statement about the candidate, with no explicit mention of the candidate’s opponent;
(Direct) comparative ads, which contain both positive statements about the candidate and negative statements about the opponent; and
Negative or attacking ads, which contain only negative statements about the opponent and nothing positive about the candidate. (Goldstein and Freedman, 2002).
However, although it has not been included in any empirical studies, Johnson-Cartee and Copeland (1991) have identified another message strategy termed indirect comparative or implicit comparative. This message strategy include both explicit positive statement(s) about the sponsor (as do competitive ads) and an implicit negative statement about the opponent (as opposed to direct negative statements like those contained in direct comparative ads. This message strategy is called an indirect comparative advertisement.
Political advertising associated with elections to government offices has been the focus of much consumer and voter criticism. It is characterized by advertising in which one opponent launches a vicious and degrading attack in the ethics and morals or law breaking behaviour of the other followed by counter attack by his or her opponent of similar kind. This type of political advertising is often used as a very visible example of bad taste in mass communication and adding further to the general cynicism of voter attitudes towards politicians and government.
The problem is that advocates of the negative advertising strategy have shown that in many instances it works. It has been shown that negative advertising can be effective in accomplishing a primary objective, like winning an election, but it can also result undesirable secondary side effects such as increasing cynical attitudes about politics and politicians. The January 2011 people’s Democratic Party Presidential Primary in Abuja may have come and gone but it left many negative issues in the minds of Nigerians. It will not be easy for most characterized the campaign period especially on the path of President Goodluck Jonathan and his bitter rival, Alhaji Abubakar. The campaign organization of both candidates freely engaged in negative political advertisement against their opponents. The crescendo was the apathy which many Nigerian electorates felt for the two main candidates as a result of the negative campaigns.
1.2 STATEMENT OF THE PROBLEM
Some scholars have argued that emotions are key factors in voter responses to mediated messages (Tedesco, 2002). For example, Kaid et al. (1992) demonstrated that emotional factors comprising either hopefulness or anxiety dimension are directly related to respective positive and negative evaluations of the candidates. The intended effects of attacking advertising create negative feeling toward the targeted candidate and positive emotions toward the sponsoring candidate.
The attacking advertising does not produce any good but hurts the political campaign. Although research in advertising suggests that repetition, even in the case of negative advertising, increase attitudes toward the ad and attitudes toward the brand. This assumption does not apply to political advertising. Literature in political advertising state that too much exposure to attacking advertising produces political cynicism and repetition create a backlash against the sponsor. In this instance, repetition might only increase viewer’s disgust for the candidate, and so decrease viewer’s intention to vote. That is, an attacking message strategy will only contribute to citizens’ disgust with the campaign. The issue for determination at this point is how do Nigeria electorates perceive the advertising messages used by Goodluck Jonathan and Atiku Abubakar during the recently concluded PDP Presidential Primary election in January 2011.
1.3 OBJECTIVES OF THE STUDY
The study in broad terms is aimed at:
Determining how Nigeria perceived the advertising messages used by the Goodluck Jonathan and Atiku Abubakar campaign organization during the January PDP Presidential Primaries in Abuja.
Finding out the impact of the Jonathan/Atiku campaign messages on Nigerian electorates.
Ascertaining the major contents of Jonathan/Atiku campaign messages.
Determining the influence of the advertising messages used by the Jonathan/Atiku campaign organization on the PDP delegates.
1.4 RESEARCH QUESTIONS
1. In what ways do the languages used in advertising messages by aspirants influence the political choices of the electorates during the January 2011 PDP Presidential Primaries in Abuja?
2. To what extent do the medium used in disseminating political advertising messages by aspirants influence electorates decisions of the choice of a political candidate?
3. What were the major issue of the advertising messages used by Jonathan/Atiku during the PDP Primary elections of January 2011?
4. In what ways do negative political advertising affect the sponsor of negative political advertising?
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