One of the arenas in which Nigeria’s election is being contested is on social media. Thanks to the increasing penetration of smartphones, traditional barriers of access to broadband Internet have been lifted and an enthusiastic population is eager to have its views heard on social media regarding issues as diverse as fuel subsidy removal and the purchase of presidential jets. The election is no exception.
This year’s election cycle is possibly Nigeria’s most expensive so far with both parties being significantly well resourced despite ongoing economic woes. A trip down the streets of Lagos or Kaduna will reveal miles of campaign posters and billboards. Nigerian TV, radio and the Internet are suffused with campaign jingles, infomercials and documentaries.
Whereas traditional media is largely paid for, social media is a mix of raw citizen participation and pecuniary interests – a scenario that reflects the actual elections in Nigeria. Just as many people are paid to vote for one party or the other with cash or bags of rice, many are also paid to post on social media for their candidates. Nonetheless, many more on social media are notpaid to post or vote. Therefore, analyzing posts and the sentiment they present could be a good proxy for polling data if the people posting are a fair representation of the voting public.
The analyses presented below attempts to do this using Twitter data. Tweets related to Nigeria’s elections have been pulled from Datasift for the period between December 1, 2014 through March 24, 2015, using the hashtags and handles represented in the table below. A total of 26,504 tweets were analyzed – 3,705 in December, 10,933 in January, 6,570 in February and 5,296 in March. This represents a random sample of 1 percent of the total 2.6 million tweets actually pulled by Datasift.0