THE IMPACT OF POLITICAL MEDIA CONTEST ON VOTER BEHAVIOUR IN EMBU COUNTY

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ABSTRACT
This study sought to find out the impact of political media contest on voter behavior in Kenya. Its objectives were to find out ways in which media coverage of political antagonism during county assembly conflicts influences voter behaviour; to investigate the strategies used by antagonists during county assembly conflicts in influencing voter behaviour; to examine the effectiveness of the communication strategies used by antagonists during county assembly conflicts to influence voter behaviour, and to find out the extent to which media gate keeping during county assembly conflicts influences voter behaviour, with Embu County used as a case study. Mixed method approach that included the use of Questionnaires, Key Informant Interviews and content analysis of the printed copies of 50 Daily Nation and The Standard newspapers was incorporated in the study. The study found out that the impact of political media contest is more pronounced among decided voters who are more likely to turn out in large numbers to elect leaders of their choice during electioneering times. The impact of the contest in shifting voter loyalty was found to be minimal. The study was anchored on Gadi Wolfsfeld‟s political contest theory. The theory posits that conflicts are won and lost in the media. The study concludes that while the influence of political media contest is more pronounced among decided voters, such influence can only have a positive impact if the media articulates the underlying issues during such conflicts to enable voters shift their loyalty because reasons for their „decidedness‟ are usually anchored on a wrong premise, in most cases ethnicity in the case of Kenya.

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