What Do the People Think?: E-Petitioning and Policy Decision Making
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E-petitioning is a ubiquitous form of online political action that has emerged as a contemporary and potentially effective way for citizens to communicate with their governments about policy issues and that makes public participation in policy discussions more easily accessible. We argue that e-petitioning platforms generate novel types of data and that governments can benefit from the information acquired through various types of analyses. We begin by presenting e-petitioning as a new form of political participation in the context of several different types of national democracies. We suggest that e-petitioning has provided political activists with a new mechanism for collective action. From there we consider four popular national e-petitioning platforms in the countries of Scotland, Great Britain, Germany, and the USA. We discuss the design features and submission processes of the different platforms and how they generate different streams of data that governments can use to better understand e-petitioning behavior. We then suggest and illustrate different analytic tools that can be used to explore the characteristics and dynamics of e-petitioning. We conclude by suggesting that government should actively seek ways to interpret and understand this new form of participation and policy discourse.
KeywordsSocial Network Analysis Political Participation Application Programming Interface Online Social Network Discussion Forum
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