Mobile political campaigns could be useful in informing voters on parties, but could also be alienating and frustrating, according to a researcher.
Research by the University of Johannesburg’s marketing management lecturer Daniel Kofi Maduku shows that voters are resisting attempts by political parties to win their votes through mobile devices, mobile internet and social media.
Maduku collected data from 971 South African voters, who were an average age of 27, in Gauteng, for the study. Using a model to understand voter resistance to political mobile marketing campaigns – Maduku identified privacy concerns, intrusiveness and internal political efficacy as contributing factors which put voters off.
Authoring a piece in The Conversation Africa, Maduku further unpacked his research. He highlighted that since the 2008 election in the US, it has become common for political parties to use mobile devices to canvas support from voters.
“In the lead up to the country’s 2014 national election and its 2016 local government elections, almost all the major political parties deployed a raft of mobile marketing strategies.
“These included SMS, MMS, political party apps, mobile voice calls and social networking sites,” he said.
Parties have similarly used the same tools to market in the 2019 elections. But just as these mobile campaigns can reinforce perceptions of parties to voters, it can also “alienate and frustrate” voters, he explained.
“A study I conducted found South African voters felt that mobile political campaigns were intrusive, violated their privacy and made them feel disillusioned with the political process.
“This suggests political parties that plan to keep using mobile campaigning should proceed with caution,” Maduku said.
He suggested that parties ask people to “opt in” to receive marketing material, as this would be received more positively.
“They also feared that malicious programmes could be used to infiltrate their mobile accounts and obtain their personal information for future political campaigns,” Maduku said.
The research showed that people perceived political parties using personal information like cell phone numbers to contact voters to be “invasive”.
“They became irritated when they received unsolicited political messages. So the messages had the opposite of the desired effect; they created apathy towards the political party in question,” he said.
Respondents also felt that the content of messages on mobile platforms were “exaggerated and confusing”. “The people I surveyed were not impressed by the actual content of mobile political campaigns.”
Maduku concludes that if used properly, political parties can successfully target potential voters – but they have to ensure voters do not feel their privacy is threatened, and they should be allowed to give their consent to receive marketing material via mobile platforms.
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