The 2019 elections in Nigeria have been concluded, albeit with mixed reactions trailing the outcome, particularly in relation to the electoral process and conduct. While many commentators and observers, both local and international adjudged the elections to be largely credible, there are a couple of dissenting opinions, which is not unexpected. However, one thing that everyone, whichever the divide, seems to concur with is the need to pursue a reformation of the electoral system more vigorously, which would significantly improve the level of participation.
The purpose of this piece is not to do a post mortem of the 2019 elections. The germane issue here is the role of research in that election and what the future portends for the research industry, especially in the area of political poll. This writer was privy to the fact that some major actors in the elections engaged research. Indeed, research output was clearly discernible in some of the campaign messages. However, industry experts estimated research input at less than 10% in the political plans and campaigns, particularly at the state level, both for the executive and legislative positions.
A typical attitude of politicians to opinion poll was exemplified by a particular case, wherein our agency proposed to a Governorship aspirant to do a check of his image and prospects among the populace before paying a huge amount of money to obtain the nomination form. The cost of the survey was less than 15% of the cost of the form. He ignored the survey idea, contested and lost woefully. He could have saved money, energy, or perhaps have better campaign based on the fact about his person and the need of his people, which the survey would have revealed.
But, the good thing is that we are beginning to have a stable polity. And, with the prospects of the electoral process becoming more transparent, and the electorates becoming more judicious, many politicians and political parties would eventually see the imperativeness of polling as a strategic tool in developing effective and impactful campaign. This would call for a more scientific understanding of the electorates. Presently, there are 91 registered political parties in Nigeria, out of which 73 fielded candidates in the 2019 elections.
POTENTIAL STUDY AREAS WILL INCLUDE:
A survey of voters’ behaviour
About the most significant aspect of electoral process is voting. It is a way by which an individual exercises his/her inalienable right of choosing a preferred candidate/party through vote casting in an election. In advance democracies, voting is seen as a “sacrosanct electoral ritual”, which not only determines electoral fortunes of political aspirants, but also prepares the ground for good governance.
A Sine qua non in voting process is the voters. Suffice it to say that Nigeria electorates are becoming more discerning; hence, achieving political success at the polls would soon enough depend largely on informed judgement about their voting behaviour and how quickly an aspirant/party can deal with potentially important issues that are likely to affect voting pattern. For example, research could reveal an amount of impending voting apathy among a group of people for certain reasons. A pro-active party or candidate would therefore find a way/take step to galvanize such people, rather than discovering such attitude when elections would have been concluded. These scenarios indeed played out in some communities in the last elections.
A survey of voters’ behaviour would:
. Enhance planning and deployment of resources
. Aid segmentation of voters into categories, which allows for target canvassing
. Be useful in predicting likely voting pattern/likely voting shares for different candidates/parties, and in different areas.
. Provide a clear understanding of attitude of voters and factors which would influence voting behavior.
A survey of Image perception
Image can be defined as “the net result of interaction of all experiences, impressions, beliefs, feelings and knowledge that people have about an entity [or a person]’’. Image study is an important step in planning political advertising efforts, since it helps to identify aspects of a candidate’s reputation or character that the voters may be unaware of or confused about.
For any candidate contesting for an elective post, two image categories are important viz:
. Image of the candidate in contrast to other contenders
. Image of the party sponsoring the candidate.
Usefulness of Image Study:
. It helps to reveal the gap between the fact about political entity [Party] or person [Candidate] as they are and as people perceived them to be.
. It can aid a political aspirant to know which image to project, as well as correct wrong impression that people might have about him.
. Overall, to do Strength, Weakness, Opportunity & Threat analysis [SWOT] of an aspirant.
This study can be conducted on or before the nomination of a candidate for a political office and subsequently, periodically before elections at local, state or national levels.
. A typical image study involves:
. Determining what characteristics of a candidate are important to voters. These attributes are used to prepare “Image Battery”.
. Measuring how a candidate is viewed on these characteristics.
. Establishing how a candidate is perceived on the characteristics compared with its competitors.
‘’ It is necessary to measure not only characteristics that are important, but it is also critical to measure which characteristics are discriminators. It is these discriminating attributes that become critical in turning research results into actionable data.’’
The challenge before research practitioners is to be well prepared and keep abreast of contemporary opinion poll techniques, in order to be relevant in the research boom that may ensue, if the semblance of political sturdiness being witnessed continues unabated.