“Politics as usual?”-The influence of the internet on political values, attitudes, and behaviour in South Africa : A mixed study approach.

Trossbach, Anne Roswitha (2019-12)

Thesis (MA)--Stellenbosch University, 2019.

Thesis

ENGLISH ABSTRACT: The last two decades have seen an impressive growth in Internet and Communication Technologies (ICTs) around the world, affecting almost every aspect of citizens’ lives, including politics. Soon after these technologies became widely available to the public, scholars have expressed a growing interest in how they might affect citizens. Since then, a new body of literature has emerged that seeks to measure relationships between Internet use and political attitudes and behaviour. Opinions differ largely between ‘cyber-optimists’ who believe that the Internet has the potential to increase citizens’ involvement in politics and foster positive political attitudes, and ‘cyber-pessimists’ who contend that the medium has done little to change the way citizens perceive politics and that it may even decrease levels of involvement. Yet, these studies have been conducted mainly in advanced democracies with almost universal access to the Internet and little is known about how the Internet and social media are utilised in the South African context. Given the effective utilisation of social media during the South African university hashtag movements in 2015 and the recent interruption of Internet access in countries such as Zimbabwe and the DRC in response to civilian unrest, it is surprising that only a few scholars have devoted attention to investigate the way in which Internet use affects citizen attitudes in Africa. With the aid of the Afrobarometer Round 6 survey of 2015 and a focus group discussion, this study seeks to fill this gap by utilising a mixed-methods approach to determine how the use of the Internet and social media affect political attitudes and behaviour of South Africans. It draws from a large body of the global, western literature to develop a framework that fits the context of the research. First, the study makes use of a quantitative approach to measure associations between Internet and social media use and political attitudes and behaviour. The correlations are suggest that growing Internet access in South Africa has begun to have an impact on citizens’ political attitudes and behaviour. Thereafter, the study attempts to determine underlying factors that might support statistical outcomes through the aid of a focus group discussion with students from Stellenbosch University. The global literature, in conjunction with the findings of this research study, suggests that the most active users are predominantly educated, young people. Therefore, university students are considered to be a suitable target group to conduct focus groups. The outcome of this research study intends to mark a step toward a closer investigation by South African scholars on how ICTs might shape citizen political attitudes and opinions.

AFRIKAANSE OPSOMMING: In die afgelope twee dekades is daar wêrelweld ‘n indrukwekkende groei in internet en kommunikasietegnologieë (IKT’s), wat byna elke aspek van die lewens van die burgers beïnvloed, insluitende die politiek. Kort nadat hierdie tegnologieë vir die publiek beskikbaar geword het, het wetenskaplikes ‘n toenemende belangstelling uitgespreek oor hoe dit burgers kan beïnvloed. Sederttien het ‘n nuwe literatuur onstaan wat poog om die verhoudings tussen internetgebruik en politieke houdings en gedrag te meet. Menings verskil grootliks grootliks tussen ‘kuber-optimiste’ wat meen dat die internet die potensiaal het om burgers se betrokkenheid by politiek, en positiewe politieke houdings te bevorder, en ‘kuber-pessimiste’ wat beweer dat die medium weinig gedoen het burgers se ervaring van politiek te verander en dat dit selfs die betrokkenheidsvlakke kan verlaag. Tog is hierdie studies hoofsaaklik uitgevoer is in gevorderde demokrasieë met byna universele toegang tot die internet, en daar is min bekend oor hoe die internet en sosiale media in die SuidAfrikaanse konteks gebruik word. Gegewe die effektiewe gebruik van sosiale media tydens die gedurende hashtagbewegings van die Suid-Afrikaanse universiteite in 2015 en die onlangse onderbreking van internet toegang in lande soos Zimbabwe en die DRK in reaksie op burgerlike onrus, is dit verbasend hoe min geleerdes narvorsing gedoen het oor die manier warop internetgebruik burgergesindhede in Afrika beïnvloed. Hierdie studie poog om leemtes te vul wat bestaan oor die invloed wat die gebruik van internet and sosiale media het od die gedrag en politieke houdings van die Suid-Afrikaanse burgers. Daar word gebruik gemaak van ‘n gemengde-metodes-benaadering wat met die behulp van die Afrobarometer Round 6 opname van 2015 en fokusgroep bespriking. Westerse literatuur word gebruik om ‘n raamwerk daar te stel wat by die konteks van die navorsing pas. ‘n kwantitatiewe benadering word gevolg om internet en sosiale media te gebruik om politieke houdings en gedrag te meet. Geen duidelike bewyse kon egter gevind word nie. Tog kan daar in mate aangeneem word dat die groeiende internet toegang in Suid-Afrika reeds begin het om ‘n invloed uit te oefen op die politieke houding en gedrag van sy mense. Uit die literatuur blyk dit duidelik dat die aktiefste gebruikens van internet jong en profesionele persone is. Daarom kan studente by universiteite as ‘n geskikte teikengroep uitgesonder word, om die rol van fokusgroepe te vervul. Die uitkoms van die studie is daarop gerig om ‘n bydrae te lewer tot verdere narvorsing oor die invloed wat IKTs op politieke menings, houdings en gedrag het.

Please refer to this item in SUNScholar by using the following persistent URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10019.1/107245
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