A new study published by Daniel Maduku, a lecturer in marketing management at the University of Johannesburg, shows that South Africans are getting annoyed by political parties that constantly phone and message them – and are worried that they are breaching their digital privacy.
The study, which was based on a survey of 971 people in Gauteng, asked respondents to evaluate their perceptions of online and mobile political marketing campaigns.
In a post on The Conversation explaining the study, Maduku said that he wanted to know, on a sliding scale and if at all, how much they felt these campaigns threatened their digital privacy and how much that perception influenced their acceptance of this form of political communication.
The findings showed that South African voters felt that mobile political campaigns were intrusive, violated their privacy and made them feel disillusioned with the political process.
“The participants were concerned that political campaigns directed at them via their mobile devices threatened their digital privacy,” he said.
“They also feared that malicious programmes could be used to infiltrate their mobile accounts and obtain their personal information for future political campaigns.”
While Maduku said that there is no evidence that political parties are engaging in illegal activities, he said that it is interesting that there is this perception and fear.
Another finding was that voters highly value and desire their privacy, he said.
“This means they view the collection of their personal information – such as their cell phone numbers – by political parties as highly invasive,” he said.
“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.”
Maduku said that mobile political campaigns also often failed to get their message across as respondents found the messages exaggerated and confusing.
“Political parties should take heed of people’s concerns and complaints about this method, and adapt their approach accordingly,” he said.
“If voters feel their privacy concerns are being respected and they have a choice to ‘opt in’, they are more likely to engage.”