Countering Violent Extremism in Nigeria

Using a Text-Message Survey to Assess Radio Programs

by James V. Marrone, Todd C. Helmus, Elizabeth Bodine-Baron, Christopher Santucci

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Research Questions

  1. How can radio programs help CVE?
  2. What is the effect of a radio talk show intended to address underlying factors promoting instability and support for Boko Haram in northern Nigeria?
  3. Are remote survey methods a reasonable mode for gathering representative samples and high-quality survey responses in western Africa?

The number of programs dedicated to countering violent extremism (CVE) has grown in recent years, but a fundamental gap remains in the understanding of the effectiveness of such programs. A 2017 RAND Corporation report documented that only a handful of such programs have been subject to rigorous evaluations of effect. Such evaluations are critical because they help ensure that programming funds are dedicated to the most-effective efforts. Evaluations also play a critical role in helping individual programs improve the quality of service provision.

This report presents the results of an evaluation designed to assess the impact of a CVE-themed radio talk show, Ina Mafita, broadcast in northern Nigeria in 2018–2019. RAND researchers studied this program by recruiting more than 2,000 northern Nigerians via text message from a research panel administered by a mobile phone–based market research company. The participants were randomly assigned to listen to either the treatment program of interest, which is intended to address underlying factors promoting instability and support for Boko Haram in northern Nigeria, or to a nontreatment control program. Specifically, RAND researchers examined the effects of the program on listeners' beliefs about the importance of being a role model and the value of local committees in reintegrating at-risk youth, as well as their views of kidnap victims. The report details the research design and findings and offers recommendations for improving such evaluations in the future.

Key Findings

  • The results indicate that Ina Mafita had a positive effect on listeners' beliefs about the importance of being a role model and a positive but not significant effect on the belief in local committees' value in reintegrating at-risk youth.
  • The authors found no effect on listeners' views of kidnap victims.
  • The researchers found zero or possibly negative effects on listeners' value of diversity; however, it must be noted that the show did not explicitly address this theme.
  • Listeners enjoyed the show, but in the general population there is probably room to expand listenership by raising greater awareness of the show and the other shows under the Farar Tattabara brand produced by Equal Access International.
  • Text message—based surveys are a cost-effective way to recruit large samples and reach remote areas, but they also have some drawbacks.

Recommendations

  • Researchers should consider additional assessment strategies. The SMS survey methodology used in this study had several benefits, including low cost and access to all regions in which the show aired.
  • To obtain a more representative sample and also ask more (and more sophisticated) questions, a face-to-face survey would be desirable.
  • There may also be value in expanding the evaluation beyond quantitative measures, through focus groups or computer-assisted telephone interviews.

The research in this report was funded by the U.S. Department of State and conducted within the International Security and Defense Policy Center of the RAND National Security Research Division (NSRD).

This report is part of the RAND Corporation research report series. RAND reports present research findings and objective analysis that address the challenges facing the public and private sectors. All RAND reports undergo rigorous peer review to ensure high standards for research quality and objectivity.

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