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Survey Indicated 80% of FCT Respondents did not Verify Claims by Politicians on Social Media


The Information Disorder Analysis Centre (IDAC) is an initiative of Dubawa, targeted specifically at unravelling the complexities and methodologies of information disorder. The goal of the initiative effort is to proactively engage with and unearth campaigns and efforts to weaponize false information.

The project which is research driven is expected to create robust knowledge on issues around information disorder with key focus on the West African sub-region.

The Centre in 2021 selected 17 academics from four West African countries to run fellowship & post-doctorate program which commenced June, 2021. One of the research fellows’ topics was “Influence of Misinformation on Voters’ Electoral Decision during the 2019 Presidential Elections in Nigeria’s Federal Capital Territory” conducted by Edward Samuel, a Programme Officer with the National Orientation Agency (NOA).

The choice of the research topic was timely as misinformation has infiltrated the social media space in the 2011, 2015 and 2019 general elections in Nigeria. However, social media has effectively helped in sharing information and ideas in a variety of ways and served as a personal and official tool for learning. It also serves as a powerful tool for interaction which breaks the traditional barriers of time and distance between people.

All efforts made by government, non-governmental organizations, media organizations, and other stakeholders by coming together before the 2019 general election to strategize about how to curtail the spread of misinformation in the 2019 elections did not yield desired result as media reports, reviews, and election observer reports show that pre-2019 general elections electioneering in Nigeria witnessed increased use and spread of misinformation This affected the rule of free and fair election upon which democracy is built and infringed on citizens’ ability to take political decisions without the influence of misinformation.

Mr. Samuel is of the opinion that studies had been conducted into the effects of misinformation on the 2019 General Elections in Nigeria. Therefore, there is a need for a study to be conducted to carefully look into the influence of misinformation on voters’ electoral decisions because the spread of misinformation can be injurious to democracy, the voter, peace, unity and progress of Nigeria as well the quality of future elections and therefore, posit a study to investigate the influence of misinformation on the decision of the voter in Nigeria to be carried out. This therefore is the basis for Samuel’s study.

The survey seeks to identify channels through which misinformation is spread, ascertain if respondents identify misinformation, examine issues of misinformation and its influence on voters’ decisions, determine if the voter’s decision to vote for a particular candidate is influenced by misinformation content, and ascertain whether voters verify campaign information and claims.

The study explored misinformation and its influence on voters’ electoral decisions in the 2019 General Election in the Federal Capital Territory. The study became necessary because the country witnessed misinformation incidents in the 2019 electioneering campaign at a time when all hands ought to be on deck to foster unity,  ethnic and religious tolerance. The study therefore, explores the ability of Nigerians in the FCT to verify and identify misinformation news items before using such information to make electoral decisions. He noted that the 2023 election is at hand and there are tendencies of the country facing misinformation challenges if the rise, growth and spread of misinformation witnessed between 1999 and 2019 elections are not properly investigated with the aim of curtailing its spread.

The research work, according to Mr. Samuel, “will serve as reference material to be consulted when programmes and policies that relate to misinformation influence on voters’,  voters’ awareness, education and enlightenment are to be carried out by policy makers and behavior modification agencies.”

In addition, academics will reference the work for future studies as well serve as a guide to other researchers interested in the influence of misinformation on voters’ decisions.

A multi-stage sampling technique was deployed to identify the target population and for data collection. Respondents were randomly administered with the online questionnaire through and physically 60 questionnaires in the six Area Councils in the Federal Capital Territory that reflects the objectives of the research. The reasons for adopting the online survey and physical administration of questionnaires is because a sizable percentage of people living in Abuja have access to the internet via their mobile phones. Those who for data constraints could not afford access via the internet were reached physically and their opinions uploaded.

Eleven election misinformation narratives were selected for the study. The selection criteria was based on the reported volume of  Nigerian social media as well as on well-known international media reports focused on Nigeria’s misinformation in the 2019 general election. The respondents were asked to provide their opinion on the research questions concerning their knowledge of each of the misinformation narratives, if they verify the story in each of the narratives, and if they consider the story in the narrative to be true. The researcher, therefore, seeks to know if the story influenced respondents’ voting decision in the 2019 Nigeria general election.

A total of 223 respondents responded to the administered questionnaire but did not respond to some of the items in the questionnaire.

Section B of the questionnaire captured items that reflected the channel through which misinformation is spread and how misinformation influences voters’ decision in the 2019 Presidential Election and items to figure out how, and where misinformation is spread coupled with fake news that was in circulation before the 2019 Presidential election in Nigeria.

To ascertain the channels through which misinformation spread before the 2019 General Election, six responsive inquiries were formulated and reflected on the questionnaire. These are: Which of the social media platforms do you use most often? Which of the social media platforms are you used to? Do you use social media to update yourself about current affairs, particularly political issues? How often do you visit social media sites? Do you share news with friends and family members on social media?, and through which of these media do you follow political campaigns?

Analysis relating the comparative  frequency of visits of FCT respondents to social media to their income level indicated that respondents with income levels between zero – N50,000 and N50,001 – N100,000 have the highest percentage of 25.32% and 17.00% of visits to social media daily.  This implies that members of the middle class in the FCT frequently visit social media on a daily basis more than other strata of the population, making them active strata in the society in terms of spreading misinformation.

Analysis of FCT resident’s  comparative  frequency of visits to social media to the level of their education implies that a significant majority of people that visit social media on a daily basis are those who had tertiary education with 65.84%, followed by those who had secondary school education with 13.30%. This implies that the usage and frequency of visits to social media depends on the level of individual educational background in the Federal Capital Territory. 

The result of data analysis of comparative  frequency of visits of FCT respondents to the social media to their age indicated that  41.79% of respondents who visit social media on daily basis are those within the age bracket of 20 – 35, which implies that youths are the most active category in the society who frequently visit the social media, followed by the age grade between 36 – 45 with 20.27%. This is an implication that the frequency of visits on social media decreases with increase in age, as the result further indicated that those above 61 years are the least social media visitors.

Analysis of data relating comparative frequency of sharing news via social media with friends and family members  to educational background. Indicated that those with tertiary education background share news with family and friends most, with 61% followed by those with secondary education reflecting 17.61%. This implies that one’s educational background contributes to the frequency of sharing information via social media.

Findings indicated that the younger people within the age bracket of 20 – 35 are the age grade that most visit the social media, result of the data analysis relating  frequency of sharing news via social media with family and friends comparative to their age.  43.40% of respondents that share news via the social media are those within the age bracket of 20 – 35, which implies that youths are the most active category in the society who frequently share news items through the social media, followed by the age grade between 36 – 45 with 22.02%. This is an implication also that the frequency of sharing news with friends and family members using social media decreases with increase in age, as the result further indicated that those above 61 years are the least social media visitors of those who share news items through the social media.

Analysis of responses to the misinformation narratives indicated that 80% of FCT respondents do not verify claims by politicians on social media. The 20% who claimed they verify the incidents do so by  reading additional newspapers, watching television station news, calling friends in the states that the incidents occur, finding out from their friends or visiting other sites. 

The research established that, education level of respondents has a major influence on sharing of news and visits to social media. Misinformation has a negative impact on voters’ decisions because 80% of the respondents do not verify the content of the news items they come across on social media.

It has also been observed from the study that younger citizens’ (age 20 – 35) are a more active population to spread misinformation. This has two disturbing implications. First, the more the number of graduates from tertiary institutions increases without media literacy or adequate fact-check skills, the more are the threats to social media. The second implication is that, lack of media education and fact-checking skills among the younger generation drives them to spread misinformation.


As this study provides the empirical data to expose the severity of information disorder on the electoral process in Nigeria, it is expected that this will offer stakeholders the needed information that will enable them to be proactive in addressing the challenges. Of particular importance is the issue of institutionalising media literacy in the curriculum of all levels of education in Nigeria.

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