Digital media exposure, political attitudes and perceptions as antecedents of voting intentions: a Zimbabwean perspective

Tobias-Mamina, Rejoice Jealous
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With the contemporary diffusion of media technology, the majority of researchers have come to position the Internet as a political instrument that has the potential to stimulate consumer behaviour. The Internet has expanded persistently as a news source and digital technologies have become more accessible and abound with user generated content. These digital media backdrops afford a valuable opportunity to empirically examine the effects of digital media effects on consumer decision-making. It is therefore important to examine how consumer perceptions and attitudes towards voting impact their decision-making in order for political marketers or politicians to develop coherent strategies that offer a conducive environment sufficient to influence voting decision-making. Whereas previous studies on voting behaviour have merely explored voting behaviour in a global context, the current study investigates the effect of digital media exposure on perceptual and cognitive constructs within a Zimbabwean context. Moreover, few studies have explored this topic in a consumer behaviour context amongst the Zimbabwean constituency. This study aims to determine whether digital media exposure influences voter-consumers’ intention to vote in subsequent Zimbabwe presidential elections. In order to empirically test the effect of digital media exposure on perceived image of a political party (PI); perceived image of a presidential candidate (PPC); attitude towards voting (ATV) and voting intention (VI), a conceptual model premised on the reviewed political marketing literature was developed. The model proposed four distinct domains that drive voting intentions. In this conceptualised model, digital media exposure is the predictor variable, while perceived image of the presidential candidate, attitude towards voting, perceived image of the political party, are mediators and voting intention is the single outcome variable. By exploring the significance of digital media use on voter behaviour, this study contributes towards specific contextual knowledge on consumer behaviour and political marketing in developing countries particularly Zimbabwe. The present study is positioned in the positivist research methodology, and assumes a deductive approach within the quantitative paradigm to test the proposed hypotheses. This study uses stratified probability sampling to arrive at the required number of provinces for the study. Using quantitative methodologies based on the nature of the research questions, data were collected through a self-administered questionnaire from 305 eligible voters from selected Provinces and Districts in Zimbabwe selected through stratified probability sampling to arrive at the required number of provinces for the study.The measuring instrument was designed from existing scales, which were adapted to suit the present study. The data analysis ii | P a g e was done in SPSS 24 for demographic data analysis and AMOS 24 was used for the structural equation modelling and path modelling. The findings support all the hypotheses in a significant way except H1 and H5. Likewise, voter-consumers’ perception of the presidential candidate has an influence on the attitude towards voting and all latter perceptual and attitudinal variables have significant influence on voting intention. Important to note about the study findings is the fact that digital media exposure has a stronger effect on perceived image of the political party (H3) than attitude towards voting (H2). However, perceived image of the political party strongly influence attitude towards voting. Remarkably, the relationship between perceived image of the presidential candidate and attitude towards voting is robust. The findings indicate that digital media exposure can have a strong influence on voting intention through attitude towards voting. The contribution of this study is threefold: Firstly, by exploring the significance of digital media exposure on voting behaviour, this study adds to contextual knowledge on relationship marketing, political brand management and experiential marketing (the final stage of the mental brand responses), consumer marketing and specifically, political marketing. Secondly, as a growing body of literature explores the use of digital technology in political campaigning/marketing to create a competitive advantage, this study provides researchers with a broad understanding of this phenomenon among voting citizens in developing countries particularly Zimbabwe. Theoretically, it is positioned in political marketing and contributes to theoretical literature that focuses on consumer behaviour, branding and brand relationship. Lastly, by investigating digital media exposure and its influence on consumers’ voting intention, the findings provided political marketing practitioners with a better understanding of strategies that can be employed to influence citizens’ voting behaviour, through the use of digital media. The study thus submits that politicians ought to pay attention to both media agenda and brand image in order to build a positive attitude towards voting which significantly influences the intention to vote. In order to maximise voter ‘purchase’, marketers can implement strategies to encourage positive behaviour from voter-consumers and exploit multi-sensory experiences in order to influence voting intentions. The study makes a significant contribution to brand management literature and consumer behaviour literature by systematically exploring the impact of media exposure on brand image and attitude towards voting in Zimbabwe. The study demonstrates that political data can be used in consumer behaviour studies and provides a theoretical method for predicting voting intentions using voter behaviour in the form of voter perception of political parties and perceived image of a presidential candidate as well as attitude towards voting. The study further highlights the significance of using digital technologies and ingenuity to create a comparative advantage as well as a differential advantage.
Thesis (Ph.D. (Business Science))--University of the Witwatersrand, Faculty of Commerce, Law and Management, School of Economic & Business Sciences, 2017
Tobias-Mamina, Rejoice Jealous (2017) Digital media exposure, political attitudes and perceptions as antecedents of voting intentions: a Zimbabwean perspective, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, <>