Academic journal article Journal of Pan African Studies

Principle Component Analysis of Factors Determining Voter Abstention in South Eastern Nigeria

Academic journal article Journal of Pan African Studies

Principle Component Analysis of Factors Determining Voter Abstention in South Eastern Nigeria

Article excerpt


African nations recorded high voter turnout following the wave of democratization in the continent from the mid-1980s (Huntington 1991). However, Nigeria, Egypt, Mali, and Cote d'lvoire were exceptions. In 2001, Nigeria, with 49.7% voter abstention was one of the countries that had the highest level of voter abstention in the world. Cote d'lvoire (63.0%) and Mali (78.7%) recorded the highest level of voter abstention. Nigeria was ranked 157th of 169 countries based on the level of voter turnout (Pinto, Gratschew & Sullivan 2001). Moreover, voter abstention has been increasing in Nigeria since 2003 (see Table 1) with the highest being the 2015 election which recorded 56.4% voter abstention and a much higher voting age abstention of 67.9%.

The declining level of voter turnout in Nigeria is a major cause for concern because it has been argued that elections are the bedrock of democracy and the length and breadth of participation in elections is one key measure of democratic performance. Thus by implication, the Nigerian democracy has been performing poorly. Electoral participation tends to have patterns that indicate peoples' perception of the social, economic, and political experiences and backgrounds of the electorates from one election to another. Peoples' preference or dislike for a political activity such as elections are reflected in the level of voting and other electoral activities but the reasons why this happens are not reported in the election results. Thus research is often needed to uncover the factors responsible for it. Consequently, it is pertinent that the drivers of voter abstention in Nigeria should be investigated in order to develop measures to check it.

Efforts have been made to study electoral and political participation in Nigeria (Adeleke 2013; Agu, Okeke, & Idike 2013; Ahmed &Taiwo 2015; Ayanda & Braimah 2015; Falade 2014 etc). Most of these studies have focused particularly on the Southwest geopolitical zone of the country (Adeleke 2013; Agu et al. 2013; Falade 2014) while few have focused on a national scale (e.g. Taiwo & Ahmed 2015).

A look at the level of voter turnout at the geopolitical zones of Nigeria (Table 2) shows that all zones witnessed a decrease in voter turnout from 2011 to 2015 except the Southwest Zone perhaps for the reason that most of the studies on political participation were done in that region. The Southeast Zone experienced the largest decrease in voter turnout from 2011 to 2015 (Table 2) yet there has been little effort to study this zone. Consequently, this examination aims at assessing the factors responsible for voter abstention in South Eastern Nigeria. It achieves this aim by engaging in an extensive literature review to identify the factors of voter abstention in Nigeria and then narrows it down to the Southeast Zone. It draws on public perception to scale the various factors identified and uses statistical techniques to uncover the underlying dimensions of the factors.

Literature Review

Election represents the machinery for the distribution of power within society; on national as well as regional levels. It also drives the political, societal and economic development of society (Begu 2007). The level of electoral participation of the citizens determines, to a degree, the success of the electoral system (Falade 2014). Whilst there are various ways to participate in democratic politics, voting is the most visible and widespread form of citizens' engagement in the electoral process (Begu 2007). Thus the most commonly reported indicator of the level of participation is voter turnout (Pinto et al. 2001). The vote is the primary thing for citizens to make their governments accountable. If a great portion of citizens does not make their opinions, elections would generate no incentives for politicians to execute policies in the interest of the people (Agu et al. 2013).

Moreover, low voter turnout prevents elections to properly do their three major purposes which are the accountability effect, legitimacy effect and representative effect (Agu et al. …

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