Social Media, Nigerian Youths and Political Participation: A Thematic and Methodological Review

Social Media, Nigerian Youths and Political Participation: A Thematic and Methodological Review

Nwachukwu Andrew Egbunike (Communication and Language Arts Department, University of Ibadan, Ibadan, Nigeria)
Copyright: © 2017 |Pages: 15
DOI: 10.4018/IJCESC.2017100104
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This article is a study of the influence of social media on political participation of youths in Nigeria through a review of the methodology, research themes and theoretical trends. The research method was a content analysis of forty-four relevant empirical articles. Findings showed that the predominant themes were political participation, social media and ethnicity. Most of the reviewed studies employed surveys, desktop research or critical review of literature as their research method. Most reviewed studies either adopted quantitative or qualitative research method and without a theoretical framework. It was evident that many studies in the global north did not link political participation to ethnicity, unlike those that were carried out in Nigeria. In addition, there were few studies on the influence of social media on the political participation of youths. Consequently, research in this area has to contextualize the Nigerian experience, adopt a triangulation of quantitative and qualitative research methods with a strong theoretical base.
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Political participation of young people is on a decline in Western countries (Putnam, 1995a, 1995b, 2000; Rahn & Transue, 1998). This apparent decline may be connected to expired paradigm that defined political participation as only voting in elections (Verba & Nie, 1973). Consequently, this has affected researches in political participation which depended solely on survey data generated during elections as the principal means of measuring political participation (Salisbury, 1975). Obviously, this erroneous definition has been challenged by scholars who insist that political participation is sum total of citizens engagement in the political process of their community (Tam Cho & Rudolph, 2008; Loewen, 2010; Eesuola, 2013; Falade, 2014).

On the other hand, the influence of digital media on political participation has been studied by from various perspectives like the following: internet and political participation in the global north (Tolbert & McNeal, 2003; Best & Krueger, 2005; Oser, Hooghe & Marien, 2013) and in a developing nation like the Philippines (Lim, 2009; Shirky, 2011). However, it seems that with time, studies have narrowed down on social media as against the broader internet. This was due to the Arab Springs of Tunisia, Egypt and Libya which emphasized how youths used social media for collective action (protests) – (Aouragh & Alexander, 2011; Chebib & Sohail, 2011; Harlow & Johnson, 2011; Hamdy & Gomaa, 2012; Lim, 2012; Papacharissi & Oliveira, 2012; Tufekci & Wilson, 2012; Douai & Moussa, 2013; Olorunnisola & Ojebode, 2013). Other studies on social media and politics/elections are: (Bennett, 2012; Carlisle & Patton, 2013). Sadly, all these studies either interpreted political participation as voting in elections alone or focused on youth’s political participation as a means to protesting and/or collective action. The only exception was: Gil de Zuniga (2012) which studied the influence of social media on political participation (from all aspects of civic engagement till voting in elections) while Kahne and Middaugh (2012) that looked at how social media influenced political participation of young people in US.

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