Political Discussions Among Young Malay Voters on WhatsApp During Malaysia’s 14th General Election: A Case Study of IIUM Students
Keywords:General Elections (GE14), WhatsApp, Political Discussions, Virtual Focus Group
This study was aimed to explore the usage of WhatsApp among young Malaysian voters in discussing political issues in Malaysia. In addition, it was also conducted to investigate the kinds of political and related issues discussed by the members of the created WhatsApp groups. WhatsApp, categorized as Mobile Messaging Applications (MMAs), was regarded in past studies as providing a new avenue for group of individuals to assemble virtually and discuss politics. In the context of this study, WhatsApp was expected to enable any politically savvy individuals to engage in prolong and detailed political discussions, regardless of their location and time. In the context of 14th Malaysian General Election (GE14), held on 9 May 2018, WhatsApp was seen by political observers and media practitioners as an attractive virtual gathering place for some Malaysians to express and share their opinions and observations of politics in Malaysia. This study employed a virtual focus group, with respondents assigned to two different WhatsApp groups, i.e. Group A and Group B. The discussions among the members of the groups were monitored and observed from 23 April 2018 until 10 May 2018. Both groups were exposed to political news i.e. pro-Barisan Nasional (BN) or/and pro-Opposition, reported by several news agencies. The Group A was fed with pro-BN new only, whereas the Group B was fed with pro-BN and pro-Opposition news. This was done to see whether or not the types of news fed influenced the topics or issues discussed by the respondents in the groups. The findings of the study showed that some respondents, in both groups, actively participated in political discussion on the WhatsApp. The interactive and user-friendly features of the application that allowed the respondents to express their opinions and at the same time attached additional information or evidence turned their discussions into evidence-based and detailed exchange of ideas on Malaysian politics. The results also indicated that WhatsApp also provided the ambience of real political discussions, similar to that of face-to-face group communication.