Political Advertising in NigeriaÃ¢ÂÂs 2015 Presidential Election
Tejumaiye JA*, Simon GI and Obia VA
Department of Mass Communication, University of Lagos, Akoka, Nigeria
- *Corresponding Author:
- Tejumaiye JA
Department of Mass Communication
University of Lagos, Akoka, Nigeria
E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org; email@example.com
Received Date: Jul 19, 2018; Accepted Date: Jul 23, 2018; Published Date: Aug 3, 2018
Citation: Tejumaiye JA, Simon GI, Obia VA. Identifying Challenges: Political Advertising in Nigeria’s 2015 Presidential Election. Global Media
Journal 2018, 16:31.
Copyright: © 2018 Tejumaiye JA, et al. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.
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This study, ‘Influence of political advertising in Nigeria’s 2015 Presidential election in Lagos state’ examined the role political advertising played in the said election. The research questions of the study are: did political advertising messages alone influence voting decision of the electorates in the 2015 Presidential election? What other factors, besides political advertising, influenced voting decision in the 2015 Presidential election? What were voters’ perceived intentions of political advertising messages in the 2015 Presidential election? What was the behavior of voters towards political advertising messages in the 2015 Presidential election? Information processing theory of William McGuire was used as the theoretical framework. Survey research method was applied and questionnaire was used as the data collection instrument. Multistage sampling method was adopted and 400 copies of the instrument were distributed in five randomly selected local government areas of Lagos state. However, 396 were returned and four were deemed invalid. Therefore, 392 copies of the questionnaires, representing 98%, were analyzed. The outcome showed that for almost half of the respondents (49%), political advertising was the sole factor that influenced their voting choice. For those who noted that this was not the case, other factors accounted for their choice, and three of these factors led the pack: ethnic considerations, religious beliefs and other considerations. The result also indicates that contrary to what analysis of political advertising studies showed during the said election, voters’ perception of political advertising tilted towards the notion that it was intended to be issue-based rather than manipulative. In general, political advertising was more of a reinforcing stimulus as it acted more to affirm voters’ already held positions than as an agent of voting behavior change.
Political advertising; Election; Voting
behavior; Influence; Nigeria
Alawode and Adesanya  described political advertising as
a form of campaign used by political candidates to reach and
influence voters. It is a subset of advertising described by
Arens  as a structured and composed non-personal
communication of information, usually paid for and usually
persuasive in nature, about products, services and ideas by
identified sponsors, through various mass media.
In the context of Kayode , political advertising requires
that mass communication be focused, targeted and managed
when reaching out to large audience groups. It can include
several different mediums and span several months over the
course of a political campaign. Unlike the campaigns of the
past, advances in media technology have streamlined the
process, giving candidates more options to reach even larger
groups of constituents with very little physical effort.
Political advertising has become a relevant niche of
advertising in the contemporary political terrain of Nigeria.
This is not unconnected with its usefulness as a veritable
means of making the electorates aware of candidates and
manifestoes of political parties . Political advertising has
become an integral part of politics in Nigeria to the extent that
electorates sometimes weigh the seriousness of candidates
and political parties against the background of the level and
pattern of advertising employed. Underscoring the relevance
of political advertising in the current Nigerian political
dispensation, Alawode and Adesanya  noted that political
advertising is central to the realization of effective political
socialization and mobilization.
This re-echoes an earlier assertion by a former President of
the United States of America, Richard Nixon that "political
advertising is to politics what bumper stickers are to
philosophy." It is not gainsaying that this assertion is relevant
to current political practices in Nigeria. In Nigeria, advertising
and public relations are the two most relevant of the
promotional mix elements in political advertising. This was
echoed by Ansolabehere and Iyenga  who argued that
political advertising has become a veritable tool for selling
candidates of political parties during campaigns. Similarly, Kaid  stressed that advertising messages do influence public
perception of candidates.
Nigeria runs a democratic system of electing public officers
into elective posts. This gives many contestants ample avenue
to make themselves available for public consideration. With
over fifty political parties in Nigeria and the need to reach the
people of diverse geographical and cultural peculiarities, many
politicians and political parties are left with no other options
than maximizing the strength of the mass media in reaching
out to the people.
Consequently, persuasive messages are designed to
highlight parties' manifestoes and showcase their candidates
for the people to exercise their franchise in their favor. The tilt
towards using the mass media for political communication
might not be unconnected with the limitations of
interpersonal communication in a diverse terrain like Nigeria.
Thus, it is not gainsaying that in modern times, political
advertising is one of the several ways politicians and political
parties mobilize the electorates.
Political advertising can be done in several ways, such as
television programme’s, radio, newspapers and display of
candidate’s portraits, with several promising and persuasive
inscription on the billboard, magazines and even the new
media of communication. Part of the basic objectives of
political advertising is to gain attention of the electorates and
for this reason, political advertising sometimes involves
orthodox strategies to achieve its aim. Edegoh, et al. 
submitted that Nigeria witnessed an unprecedented increase
in the number and style of political advertising in the national
and state elections held in 2011. Several media of political
advertising were employed during the electioneering
campaigns. Notable of these media include radio, television,
Internet, newspapers, magazines, billboards, posters and
others. Despite the finances and experts services that
politicians and political parties employ in designing persuasive
messages and disseminating them via multiple media
platforms, the influence of political advertising in shaping
voters' attitude as well as directly influencing voting decision
calls for empirical inquiry. Hence, the need for this study.
Statement of the Problem
Political advertising is fast becoming an important part of
Nigerian politics. This was demonstrated at the 2011 and the
2015 General Elections in Nigeria. It will be recalled that prior
to the 2015 General Election, the All Progressives’ Congress
(APC) and the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), the two major
political parties that presented contenders for the presidential
election, as well as other political parties vehemently used
political advertising. Political advertising messages were
displayed on radio, television, newspapers, magazines, the
internet and many outdoor platforms. This might not be
unconnected with the assumed relevance of political
advertising in influencing voting decisions. Indeed, Nigerian
scholars among which include Ekhareafo, Akoseogasimhe and
Olujide, et al. [8,9] have identified political advertising as a
recognizable influencer of voters in Nigeria. It is also noteworthy that Batta, et al.  just like Alawode and
Adesanya  have observed that political advertising was
strongly used towards the 2015 General Elections in Nigeria.
This study therefore seeks to probe into the roles (if any)
political advertising played on voting decisions of the
electorates during the election. The study is however delimited
to the 2015 Presidential Election.
The following are the objectives of this study:
• To ascertain if political advertising alone influenced voting
decision of the electorates in the 2015 Presidential
• To investigate if other factors besides political advertising
influenced voting decisions of the electorates in the 2015
• To establish voters' perceived intention(s) of political
advertising in the 2015 Presidential election.
• To examine the behaviour of the electorates towards
political advertising messages in the 2015 Presidential
To accomplish the above stated objectives, the following
questions were answered:
• Did political advertising messages alone influence voting
decision of the electorates in the 2015 Presidential
• What other factors, besides political advertising, influenced
voting decision in the 2015 Presidential election?
• What were voters’ perceived intentions of political
advertising messages in the 2015 Presidential election?
• What was the behaviour of voters towards political
advertising messages in the 2015 Presidential election?
Political advertising in Nigerian politics
Advertising which is a branch of marketing communication
has many branches. One of such branches which have become
popular is political advertising. Politicians engage the service
of different advertising agencies who creatively design
messages geared towards engineering positive perception of
electorates about their parties and candidates as well as their
manifestoes. In a democracy, people champion the need for
better leadership and parties express the ability to meet these
needs in form of advertising and manifestoes; conferences,
rallies from ward to ward, billboard, writings, granting and
publishing interviews among others . The essence of
political advertising is not for the buyers- the electorates to
just come and buy the product, but to appeal to their
reasoning and emotions, in order to win votes . Unlike what
obtains in advertising that has to do with commercial
products, in political advertising, the electorates do not have to buy the candidates, but come out to cast their votes, to top
in the election and this is only done by eligible electorates
within the constituency as political advertising is not targeted
at every one, but those eligible.
Generally, advertising has to do with informing the people
about the existence of something, so as to draw attention to it;
it is giving of notice, so as to draw attention. Advertising is
unique and special and if anything is to be known about the
existence of a product, commodity, item, good, service or a
political candidate, then there is need for advertising.
Advertising describes any form of communication, which is
principally aimed at promoting the sales and patronage of
goods and services. Advertising as a purposive communication
is both an act and art of communication. Individuals, corporate
bodies and government endeavor to communicate their
goods, products or services to the audience. It is noteworthy
that the desired result from advertising of any kind is to
influence consumer behaviour with respect to positive
disposition to advertised products and services. Advertising
messages are usually paid for by sponsors and viewed via
various traditional media, including mass media such as
newspapers, magazines, television, radio, outdoor or direct
mail or new media, such as websites and text messages.
As a special genre of advertising, Political advertising could
be described as all efforts made by politicians, political parties,
and parties' candidates to plan, design and disseminate
messages intended to engender favorable attitude, perception
and behaviour among the electorates which would in turn lead
to the exercise of the electorates franchise in favor of the
parties and their candidates. This means that political
advertising is sponsored and therefore paid for by identified
Asemah as cited by Edegoh et al.  submits that political
advertising is used by Nigerian politicians to persuade people
to vote for them and it is therefore part and parcel of the
political process in Nigeria and any other democratic society. It
is a very important source of communication for voters. It is
the advertising that involves political parties presenting
candidates in order to win votes and be in power. Considering
the expectations from political advertising, it normally calls for
strategic thinking and calculated initiative aimed at achieving
desired results and it is purposive. Kogah  asserts that
political advertising functions to communicate the attributes
of the politician that relates to the constituent’s needs and the
candidate in turn gains the voter’s confidence and votes. Here,
the political candidate is packaged much like a commercial
product, while the patronage of this 'political product' is
measured by the number of votes garnered at the polls. As a
result of the wide acceptability of political advertising in the
contemporary political landscape in Nigeria, it is taken that
modern politics is incomplete without political advertising .
Political advertising has immensely grown in Nigeria in the
past two decades. Olujide et al.  note that advertising has
become the most commonly used technique to create a
favorable image for the candidate and a negative image for the
opponent. Before now, political parties and candidates
channeled most of their resources into political rallies, speeches and direct contact to gather the support of
electorates . Ansolabehere and Iyenger  identified two
techniques used by political candidates and their parties for
political advertising. They called them Attack Ad Techniques
and Contrast Ad. However, Olujide, Adeyemi and Gbadeyan 
mentioned a third technique referred to as political
The Attack Ads Technique entails absolute focus on the
negative perspective of the opposing parties. Such technique
lacks any element of positivity about the opponents. The main
aim of the advertisement is to ridicule, degrade and vilify the
opposing parties. This often snowballs into personal attacks.
Attack advertisements portray the opposing parties and their
candidates as ill-equipped to solve societal needs. Also,
messages are creatively designed to fault the manifestoes and
ideology of the opposing parties by highlighting their
weaknesses and impracticability. Often, the ad will simply
make use of innuendo. According to Ansolabehere and Iyenger
, attack ads usually identify the risk associated with the
opponent. The ultimate goal of this ad is to create fear in the
electorates and make them disenchanted with everything the
opposition parties represent. For the sponsors of this type of
advertisement, electioneering campaign is a battle for the
souls of the electorates, and all it takes (including negative
ads) must be provided to ensure victory at the polls.
Contrast ads contain information about both the sponsor
(candidates or political parties) and opponents. However, the
aspect that relate to the sponsor is positive while the
information about the opponent is negative. Contrast ads
compare and contrast the candidates with the opponent,
juxtaposing the positive information about the candidate with
the negative information of the opponent. Unlike the Attack
ads technique that focuses on opponents negativities, Contrast
ad focuses on the ideas, ideologies, manifestoes etc. of the
sponsoring party and the opponents, but the message is
designed as such that the sponsor's ideals are portrayed as
more superior to the opponents. Political advertisements
make no mention of the opposition parties and their
candidates. Such advertising messages are designed around
party of candidates that sponsor the campaign. The aim of
such campaign might be to give the impression that the
oppositions are not a force to reckon with. Also, such political
message makes the electorates to be provided with relevant
information about the sponsor-party without inundating them
with information about opposing parties.
Mass media as platforms for political
advertising in Nigeria
It is noteworthy that the multiplicity of mass media
platforms provides diverse channels for churning out political
adverts. These platforms are radio, television, newspaper,
magazines, outdoors, the Internet and most recently the social
media. It is observable that Nigerian political parties and their
candidates select the media platforms through which they
would put forward their political adverts based on the target
audience. This is because there are demographic realities in
media usage pattern among Nigerians. While the elderly ones rely largely on the mainstream media (radio, television,
newspapers, and magazines), majority of the youths rely more
on the internet, especially through social media platforms like
Facebook and Twitter.
Commenting on the relevance of social media in modern
practice of political advertising in Nigeria, Okoro and Nwafor
 posited that the utilization of online networking in
political issues has been developing of late even though it was
not at first recognized as a political apparatus. But political
aspirants and politicians at large have understood the
capability of the social media site. Hence, it has turned into
one of the fundamental platforms for political aspirants to
propagate diverse campaign messages to their constituents
who have an interest in their political career and aspirations.
This position was supported by Chinedu-Okeken and Obi who
observed that political mobilization is attainable through social
Okoro and Nwafor  reported that with social networking
sites political aspirants appeal to citizens, allowing them to
maintain constant touch with the electorates. This is because
the internet has drastically reduced the barriers of space and
time that could militate against active engagement of political
advertising. Time here is as minute as the few seconds or
minutes needed to compose and publish certain political
messages. In their own perspective, David et al. and Kreiss
[14,15] remarked that most political party and leader maintain
an account on Facebook and Twitter in order to put out their
agenda. Thus, the role of web-based social networking systems
like Facebook, Twitter and YouTube in electioneering campaign
in Nigeria as of late can't be overemphasized .
Just like the use of social media platforms, it is also on
record that newspapers, magazines, and radio and television
stations also served as platforms for political advertising as a
build up to the 2015 presidential election in Nigeria. Many of
these adverts were sponsored by individual politicians,
political parties, as well as party candidates. The two major
contenders at the election- the then ruling People’s
Democratic Party (PDP) and the main opposition All
Progressives Congress (APC) explored multiple media
platforms to convey their manifestoes to the electorates.
For instance, Ekhareafo and Akoseogasimhe  showed the
extensive use of newspapers for political advertising in the
2015 Presidential election. Edegoh et al.  also gave insight
into the use of the broadcast media (television) as a tool for
political advertising. They noted that such adverts could
influence voters' decision just as the combination of sound and
visuals could aid more recall of political adverts messages.
They, however, suggested combination of all media platforms
as the balanced kit for effective political advertising.
Media persuasion and political advertising
The power of media to persuade people has been of major
interest to media scholars and others. The body of research in
mass communication regarding media influence on opinion
and behaviour has moved through three recognizable
paradigms of communication theory . These paradigmatic shifts are the all-powerful effects, limited effects, and
moderate effects. The all-powerful effects of media persuasion
began with the work of Walter Lippmann and Harold Lasswell
who viewed people as living in mass societies where they are
passive and are greatly influenced by media messages .
However, Lowery and DeFleur  documented the studies of
Hadley Cantril and Paul Lazarsfeld which challenged this view
and proposed the limited media effects perspective. Moderate
effects followed with evidence of media dependence, the
power of media to silence opposing views, and violent media
effect through long-term exposure .
Media effects arguments have also been analyzed using
media messages during elections, with one of the earliest
being Lazarsfeld’s work on the persuasive power of media in
the political process. Persuasive communication involves the
sending of a message provided by one agent with at least a
potential interest in changing the behaviour of another agent,
otherwise known as the receiver.
Political advertising can either be positive or negative 
or can be based on or information or persuasion . Political
advertising then is an arm of political communication since
voters need to know about candidates, parties, and
manifestoes. This need for information on the part of voters
provides avenues for persuasion just as the aim of
conventional advertising of goods is to induce a certain action.
From this standpoint, political advertising can be linked to the
larger debate on media influence.
But scholars have divergent evidences on the persuasive
effect of political advertising. On the one hand, Spenkuch and
Toniatti  in an analysis of Presidential elections in the
United States from 2004 to 2012, found minimal effects of
political advertising, arguing that partisan views were more
potent especially considering that spending on political
advertising and campaign by opposing candidates are more or
less equal and tend to cancel each other . DellaVigna and
Gentzkow also found that political advertising had little effect
on voting decision as opposed to face-to-face campaign which
had a greater effect on voters.
On the other hand, Brandenburg and Van Egmond 
found evidence of media persuasion in the UK elections of
2005. Questioning the limited effects perspective, they argued
that media influence was substantial but difficult to detect,
submitting that media coverage of parties during the election
influenced how people perceived candidates, that negative
coverage of other parties had a greater positive impact on how
a party was perceived than direct positive coverage did, and
this influence was greatest for those who were undecided.
Magee  also found that negative political advertisement
was more potent at persuading voters than positive
advertisement. His finding supported the theory which holds
that an incumbent candidate will spend more on negative
advertisement when he is faced with a serious challenger but
will invest in positive advertisement when faced with a light
challenger. This shows why political parties and candidates
continue to spend on advertisements in spite of what media
scholars say of media persuasion.
The electorate also views the media as powerful as opposed
to what research studies say. Mutz  observed that this
divide exists, noting that while scholars have followed the
output of research work from the all-powerful paradigm to the
present time, people have measured the power of media
during elections based on ubiquity, the fact that the people
equate product advertising to political advertising, and the fact
that political candidates continue to invest huge sums –
around 70% of their budget – for media consultancy and
political advertising justify the use of political advertising
messages to influence voters.
Linking political advertising to voting
behaviour in Nigeria
The last general elections in Nigeria were held in 2015 and
some studies [8,10,26] have been conducted to analyze the
features of political advertisements used by the two major
parties that contested the election and the influence that this
had on the electorate. The summary of their works suggests
that political advertisements during elections in Nigeria are
largely negative with little emphasis on issues, and that
political adverts have little influence on voting behaviour.
The first two studies were based on examining the features
of political adverts during the election and arrived at strikingly
similar outcomes. First were Ekhareafo and Akoseogasimhe 
which was preoccupied with finding out the features of
political and campaign adverts during the 2015 election
focusing on the two major parties that contested the election?
The researchers looked at eight purposively selected adverts
from two Nigerian newspapers from January to March 2015,
focusing on the wordings, themes, subject matter,
interpretation and pictures used in the adverts.
In their textual review of the adverts, they noted that the
political adverts were overshadowed by negative tactics,
inflammation and personal attacks. One in particular was
adjudged insulting. Only few adverts were issue-based and
some of the adverts had religious undertones. They also
observed that the advert contravened the provisions of the
Advertising Practitioners Council of Nigeria (APCON) Code as it
relates to political advertising as one advert “grossly made use
of hate speeches, attack, accusatory, religious prejudice and
The second study in this set, which was carried out by Batta
et al. , focused on the features of political adverts used
during the 2015 general elections. To ascertain this, the
researchers’ content analyzed adverts in The Punch and The
Guardian newspapers from January to March 2015. They
found that most of the adverts were not issue-based (63%),
with most of them being personal attacks (41%), followed by
religious sentiments, ethnic prejudice and hate speech. They
also found that non-political actors were the greatest sponsors
of political advertising, followed by the two major parties: PDP
and APC in that order; and one-third of the adverts did not
comply with the APCON code.
Ojekwe  went beyond studying the features of political
adverts during the election into analyzing the influence that they had on voters. She was interested in knowing how the
political advertising campaign of Akinwunmi Ambode who was
the gubernatorial candidate of the All Progressives Congress in
Lagos state influenced voting decision. To this end, she studied
200 respondents and found that only a fraction of the
respondents was influenced by the adverts.
However, electronic advertising on radio and television was
found to be potent as most respondents remembered
Ambode’s theme song. She submitted that electoral victory
was determined by other factors separate from political
advertising. Our study extends the literature by examining not
a gubernatorial election as in Ojekwe’s case, but the 2015
Presidential election, and not just the features of adverts in
the Presidential election as in Batta et al.’s  case, but the
influence of the adverts on voting behaviour.
Theoretical Framework: Information
The information processing theory was developed by
William McGuire as a cognitive and systematic way of
analyzing information leading to attitude change. Anaeto, et al.
 noted that the theory lays out a process of cognitive
assessment with one leading to the other and that McGuire
has added more stages to information processing ladder.
In 1989, McGuire presented twelve steps in information
processing ranging from exposure, comprehension, retention,
retrieval, decision, behaviour, to reinforcement . Baran and
Davis  describe the theory as computerizing and
reductionist. They assert that it equates humans with
computers possessing the ability to screen sensory
information, filtering in only a small percentage of information
they are exposed to and remembering only a minute fraction.
This is done almost unconsciously with humans having little
power over information processing.
One foundational assumption of information processing is
that humans are exposed daily to more messages than they
can deal with. Hence, when they come in contact with new
information, they need a basis on which to evaluate it.
This explains why people who have prior knowledge tend to
evaluate brands favorably using information processing, while
others who lack it are only able to process information whey
they spend considerable time assessing brands to make up for
their lack of sufficient knowledge . This is in tandem with
DellaVigna and Gentzkow where people with superior
knowledge tend to be open to persuasive communication
when it comes in the form of information and not
Palomo, et al.  applied systematic-heuristic approach to
purchase decision of consumers in Spain based on social and
environmental labeling. They found that more consumers tend
to make decisions based on brand recognition as opposed to
processing information based on recognizing, understanding,
trusting, and considering useful social and environmental
The implication therefore is that people make product
choices not on systematic grounds of information processing.
Extending information processing to how Americans evaluate
black leaders, Carton and Rosette  upheld this notion and
provided a how and why approach to the fact that Americans
use goal-based stereotypes in their evaluation of the successes
or failures of black leaders.
It would seem that this pattern also finds expression in the
realm of political advertising. That is, those who hold partisan
views make voting decisions based on prejudices and not
actual information processing. For example, Franz and Ridout
 observed that the influence of political advertising is
moderated by high exposure to information with those having
little exposure being the most susceptible to political
persuasion through advertising.
Greene  however distinguished between the processingpartisan
approach in advanced and developing countries. He
noted that people react to great exposure to political
messages in two ways. First is according to their existing store
of information and the less of this that voters have, the more
they are susceptible to changing their minds in an unbalanced
Second is that voters evaluate political messages based on
partisan bias such that those who do not have this bias
evaluate messages on opposing candidates in an independent
manner, while those who hold this bias evaluate messages
based on their pre-existing notion?
In a place like the United States of America for instance,
voters have a huge store of political information, making it
possible for them to hold partisan views such that campaigns
and adverts have little influence on them. But in developing
countries where different parties constantly rise and fall and
where people have a reduced information store and less
political leanings, advertising can have a significant influence
on voters .
It is with this in mind that we set out to examine if political
advertising alone do influenced voting decision of the
electorates or not. We also set out to decipher electorates’
knowledge of the intention of political advertising as well as
the behaviour of electorates’ viz-a-viz political advertising
messages. The study is however delimited to the 2015
Presidential election in Nigeria.
The study adopted survey research method, while
questionnaire was used as data collection instrument. The
study was conducted in Lagos state because the state is a
melting point of ethnic groups in the country, representing a
kind of mini-Nigeria. Aside being the most populated state in
Nigeria, the state is also the economic base of the nation. The
state has 20 federally recognized Local Government Areas
(LGAs) and 37 Local Council Development Areas (LCDAs)
created by the state government. According to the Lagos
Bureau of Statistics , there are 17,552,942 residents in
Multi-stage sampling technique was used to draw samples.
The first stage was the selection of five LGAs using the simple
random sampling technique. To this end, Surulere LGA, Mushin
LGA, Ikeja LGA, Lagos Mainland LGA and Shomolu LGA were
selected. The second stage was the selection of four wards
from each LGAs using the simple random sampling technique.
Four wards per LGA meant that 20 wards were used in the five
Afterwards, four streets were selected from each ward using
simple random sampling, and five households were selected
from each street using the systematic random sampling
technique. The final stage was the selection of one person
from each household using the stratified sampling technique.
The stratification variables used were: Level of education
(minimum is Secondary School Certificate Examination [SSCE]),
awareness of political advertising messages and the person
must have voted during the 2015 Presidential election. In all,
400 copies of the research instrument were administered, 396
were returned, and 392 were considered valid. The 392 valid
responses represent a 98 percent response rate.
For research question one, the variable measured was
whether political advertising alone accounted for voting
choice, and the response was drawn using a yes/no frame. This
was however supported with other items measuring the rate
of awareness to political advertising, extent of exposure, party
campaign message most exposed to and party alignment.
For research question two, the variable measured was other
factors responsible for voter choice and the measurement was
done on a scale of 1 (weakest factor) to 5 (strongest factor).
Research questions three and four were measured on a 5-
point Likert scale (strongly disagree to strongly agree).
The instrument used for the study was validated using face
validity and a measure of internal consistency. In particular,
the items used to answer research question one were
validated using face validity, while the items for research
questions two to four were subjected to Cronbach’s alpha test
The outcome of the test showed an alpha of .66 for the six
items used in answering research two, .68 for the seven items
used for research question three, and .69 for the items for
research question four. These indices showed that the
instrument was reliable, particularly when we consider their
proximity to the .7 margin.
Scope of the Study
The study covered residents of Lagos state only. The study
was predicated on ascertaining how political advertising
influenced voting decisions of the electorates in the 2015
Presidential election in Nigeria. The study also explored the
extent of awareness of the intention of political advertising
messages as well as established the knowledge of the
electorates of political advertising in the said election.
In general, the demographic data, measured in the form of
gender, occupation, age, marital status and education, showed
that respondents were evenly spread across all categories (Table 1).
Table 1: Demographic Variables of Respondents.
|35 and above
Answers to Research Questions
Research question 1: Did political advertising messages
alone influence voting decision of the electorates in the 2015
Research question one was aimed at knowing whether or
not political advertising alone was responsible for the choice
of voters during the 2015 Presidential election in Nigeria.
Findings indicate that political advertising was not the only
factor that influenced voters’ choice during the election.
However, as a single factor, to a relatively large extent, it
influenced voters’ choice during the election.
According to the data in Table 2, almost half (49%) of the
respondents noted that political advertising was the sole
factor responsible for their choice in the election. This number is considered high because it is enough to determine the
direction of the election. Also, those who answered in the
negative were not stating that political advertising did not
influenced them, but were rather of the view that it was not
the sole deciding factor for them.
Table 2: Number of people whom political advertising alone influenced their choice of candidate.
|Political advertising alone influenced me
|Other influences determined my choice
This is related to findings in Table 3 where it is evident that
majority of the respondents were highly exposed to political
advertising. In all, two out of every five (42.1%) of the
respondents were very highly aware of political advertising,
while one in five (21.4%) were highly aware.
Table 3: Rate of awareness of political advertising.
When combined, this shows that almost two-thirds (63.5%)
were either highly or very highly aware of political advertising
during the election. On the other hand, only 11.2% of the
respondents were aware, either lowly or very lowly of political
advertising. This high rate of awareness probably explains why
for a sizable number of the respondents, political advertising
alone was enough to influence their voting choice during the
This pattern was also recorded in Table 4 where we see a
high rate of exposure to political advertising. Over half (56.4%)
of the respondents were exposed to political advertising on a
daily basis. On the other hand, 34.2% were exposed 2-4 days
every week, while 9.4% were exposed 5-6 days a week. The
consistent exposure to political advertising over a sustained
period of time for which the campaign lasted might also
explain why political advertising alone influenced voting choice
for nearly half of the respondents (Table 2).
Table 4: Extent of exposure to political advertising.
|2-4 days a week
|5-6 days a week
To understand how political advertising had such an
influence on the respondents’ voting choice, we measured the
campaign messages that they were exposed to according to
political party and the party that the respondent eventually
aligned with. The outcome was presented in Table 5 where we
see that well over two-thirds (72.2%) of the respondents noted
that they were exposed the most to the campaign messages of
the All Progressives’ Congress, the party that won the election.
Going by this, we can infer that one reason why the APC won
the election was because political advertising played a
recognizable role in influencing voting choice and since most
of the respondents were exposed to APC campaign messages,
the party was set up to win the election.
Table 5: Exposure and alignment to party campaign messages.
|Campaign messages with most exposure
|Political party alignment
This pattern was also noticed in the party that the
respondents eventually aligned with. Table 5 shows that 58.4%
of the respondents chose to align with the APC, while 36%
went with the People’s Democratic Party. Although the figure
for the APC in this category is lower than the 72.2% recorded
for exposure, it more closely represents the 53.96% of people
who voted for President Muhammadu Buhari, the candidate of
Research question 2: What other factors, besides political
advertising, influenced voting decision in the 2015 presidential
For research question two, our preoccupation was to
ascertain others factors apart from political advertising that
were responsible for voting choice since 51% of the
respondents noted that political advertising was not the sole
factor that influenced their choice. Findings in Table 6 showed
the factors. The items listed in the table were provided by the
researchers after extensive study and vetting and the
respondents were required to choose on a scale of 1 (weakest)
to 5 (strongest), the other factors that affected their voting
Table 6: Other influencers of choice of candidates voted.
|Personality of candidates
The outcome in Table 6 showed that “Ethnic considerations”
with a mean of 3.37 and standard deviation of 1.54 was the
most prominent factor besides political advertising that
influenced voter choice during the election. This outcome was
not considered strange. In Nigeria, as in other sub-Saharan
African nations, ethnicity still plays a part in who people
choose to vote for. President Muhammadu Buhari is Hausa/
Fulani from the North, while his opponent, President Goodluck
Jonathan is Ijaw from the South. The ethnic card in the
election showed as Jonathan won overwhelmingly in the
South-South and South-East regions, places where he was
considered a “son” or a “brother.” Buhari, on the other hand, got most of his votes from the North where he too was
considered a “son” or a “brother”.
Related to this is the role of religion as seen in Table 6 where “Religious beliefs” ranked second with mean of 3.33
and standard deviation of 1.49. As was noticed in the election,
the Jonathan camp painted Buhari as an Islamic
fundamentalist whose agenda was to make Nigeria a Muslim
country. This religious dichotomy reflects ethnic differences as
the North is predominantly Islam, while the South is
predominantly Christian. The ratings of other factors, apart
from political advertising, that influence voting choice during
the election were “Other consideration” (M=3.16, SD=1.42),
“Personality of candidates” (M=2.94, SD=1.35), “Party
manifestoes” (M=2.87, SD=1.55), and “Party affiliation”
(M=2.81, SD=1.29).One sample t-test however showed that
political affiliation with a t value of -2.187, religious beliefs
with t value of 3.319, and ethnic considerations with t value of
3.686 were statistically significantly different from the central
value of 3 which represented the population mean. But party
manifesto with t value of -.132, personality of candidates with
t value of -.681, and other considerations with t value of 1.056
showed no statistical difference from the chosen population
mean of 3, since they had p > .05, indicating that more than
the first three items, they were representative of the
Research question 3: What were voters’ perceived
intentions of political advertising messages in the 2015
For research question three, we sought to ascertain
respondents’ perception of the intent behind political
advertising messages during the 2015 Presidential
electioneering. We sought to provide an explanation of the
view that people had regarding the aim of political advertising.
Again, the items used for this variable were selected after
study and vetting by the researchers. The findings as presented
in Table 7 showed that respondents perceived that the most
prominent intent behind political advertising was to solicit for
votes (M=3.69, SD=1.25). This was expected since the reason
why candidates throw their hats into a ring during electoral
contests is to win elections by gathering the most votes.
Table 7: Voter’s perceived intention of political advertising during the election.
|Perceived intention of political advertising
|To make insecurity a major subject
|To make job creation a major subject
|Political advertising was issue-based
|It was aimed at attacking opponents
|It was aimed at evoking ethnic sentiments
|It was aimed at soliciting votes
|It was intended to spread hate speech
Excluding the top-ranking item, we divided the remaining
items into: issues-based and manipulation. Generally, the
outcome indicated that respondents perceived political
advertising to be more issue-based than manipulative. For
instance, the second ranked item which belonged to the issuebased
category was “to make job creation a major subject”
This indicates that to a large degree, respondents perceived
that political advertising was intended to make job creation a
deciding factor. The importance of this item becomes apparent
when we consider that “soliciting votes” is the generic reason
for political advertising. Ranking third was the respondents’
perception that political advertising during the election was
more issue-based than otherwise (M=3.37, SD=1.13), and
ranking fifth was the perception that it “made insecurity a
major subject” (M=3.29, SD=1.4).
On the other hand were the items that indicated that
political advertising was aimed at manipulating people by
playing on their emotions and beliefs. In general, these items
ranked lower than those related to debating issues and ideas.
The highest item in the “manipulation” divide, according to the
perception of respondents, was that political advertising was
“aimed at attacking opponents” (M=3.3, SD 1.29), making it
fourth in the general ranking.
This was followed by the perception that it was “aimed at
evoking ethnic sentiments” which ranked sixth (M=3.15,
SD=1.31), and lastly by the perception that it “was intended to
spread hate speech” which ranked seventh (M=2.79, SD=1.32).
Although the manipulative variable ranked lower, it is
instructive to note that they all approximately ranked above
Research question 4: What influence did political
advertising have on voting behaviour during the 2015
For research question, our purpose was to ascertain the
pattern of behaviour that political advertising triggered in
voters and the respondents gave their answers to items
selected after the researchers’ vetting on a 5-point scale from
strongly disagree to strongly agree. According to findings in Table 8, the top two ranking items indicate that political
advertising was strongest in terms of reinforcing the choices
that the voters already had. For instance, the top-ranking item
was that political advertising triggered in voters actions aimed
at “campaigning for the candidate they supported” (M=3.2,
SD=1.36). This was followed by the item, “I had a candidate to
vote for but political advertising reinforced my choice”
Table 8: Behaviour of voters towards political advertising (PA) in the Presidential 2015 election.
|I had a candidate to vote for but PA reinforced my choice
|I had a candidate to vote for but PA made me change my mind
|I didn’t want to vote but PA made me change my mind
|PA moved me to campaign for the candidate I supported
|PA made me vote based on ethnicity
|PA made me vote based on religion
|I wouldn’t have voted for the candidate I voted for if not for PA
The next three items indicated the power of political
advertising in attitude change by making voters shift from an
earlier held position. We see this in the third ranking item, “I
didn’t want to vote but political made me change my mind”
which had a mean of 2.77 and standard deviation of 1.36. This
was followed by the fourth ranking item, “I wouldn’t have vote
for the candidate I voted for if not for political advertising”
with a mean of 2.74 and standard deviation of 1.44. And then
the fifth ranking item, “I had a candidate to vote for but
political advertising made me change my mind” with a mean
of 2.64 and standard deviation of 1.36.
The least ranking items in Table 8 were based on ethnic and
religious considerations and aligned to a reasonable extent
with the manipulative variables which ranked lower in Table 7.
And so in Table 8, we see that the item, “political advertising
made me vote based on ethnicity” ranked sixth (M=2.38,
SD=1.28), while the item, “political advertising made me vote
based on religion” ranked least (M=2.34, 1.32).
Discussion and Conclusion
The study was aimed at ascertaining how political
advertising influenced voters during the 2015 Presidential
election in Nigeria. Findings in the study revealed that a
sizeable number of respondents noted that political
advertising alone accounted for the voting choice. And for
other factors besides political advertising that affect voting
choice, ethnic considerations and religious beliefs were the
most prominent factors. Also, the items that featured
uppermost as the perceived intentions that the respondents
had of political advertising were that it was aimed at soliciting
votes, at making job creation a major subject, and that it was
issue-based. For voting behaviour, we found that political
advertising reinforced existing political beliefs more than it
This study agrees substantially with the view that political
advertising is a recognizable influencer of voters [8,9], since
we found that for almost half of the respondents, political
advertising alone shaped their voting choice. The outcome of
research question four however revealed that this influence is
more related to reinforcing existing political views than
However, with the reasonable high level of exposure to
political advertising and the response of the respondents
regarding their perceived intentions of political advertising, we
submit that they have little knowledge of messages behind
political advertising. The ranking of their responses showed
that they perceived political advertising messages to be more
issue-based than manipulative. But this is contrary to the
content analysis of political adverts during the election which
showed that most of them were manipulative, while only few
were issue-based [8,9] and that most of the adverts, more
than being sensational, also contravened the APCON code
. This faulty understanding of the rationale behind political
advertising messages probably underscores why the
electorates could have been vulnerable to manipulation based
on political advertising in their information processing systems
as explained by DellaVigna and Gentzkow.
But there is little to support this assertion since political
advertising served to reinforce the voting choice of the people
more than it did to change their voting behaviour. In this
regard, this study agrees with other studies [22,26] which
noted that political advertising has minimal effects on voters.
Thus, we disagree with Brandenburg and Van Egmond 
who found to a considerable degree, elements of political
advertising persuasion in the 2005 UK elections. With regards
to Greene , we agree with the difference pointed out
between developed and developing countries. Considering the
unstable nature of democracy in developing countries with
different parties rising and falling every other year and the
very popular practice of cross-carpeting, one would expect
that the electorate would have little political affiliation, unlike
what obtains in advanced democracies. Since they hold little or
no political affiliation, then they tend to be influenced by
political advertising . Our finding of reinforcement over
influence however debunks this assertion, since the outcome
indicates that the people who already had a choice and only
used political advertising to reinforce their choice were more
than those who used political advertising as an instrument of
voting behaviour change. Notwithstanding, the items related
to attitude change ranked between 2 and 3 on a 5-point scale,
indicating some form of influence, though subdued. This
probably accounts for why almost half of the respondents
noted that political advertising alone influenced their voting
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