Advertisement

What Do the People Think?: E-Petitioning and Policy Decision Making

  • Catherine DumasEmail author
  • Teresa M. Harrison
  • Loni Hagen
  • Xiaoyi Zhao
Chapter
Part of the Public Administration and Information Technology book series (PAIT, volume 25)

Abstract

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.

Keywords

Social Network Analysis Political Participation Application Programming Interface Online Social Network Discussion Forum 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

References

  1. Anduiza, P. E., Jensen, D. M. J., and Jorba, D. L. Eds., 2012. Digital media and political engagement worldwide. Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  2. Bennett, W. L. 2008. Changing citizenship in the digital age. In W. L. Bennett (Ed.), Civic life online: learning how digital media can engage youth. Cambridge, Mass: MIT Press.Google Scholar
  3. Bennett, W.L. and Segerberg, A., 2012. The logic of connective action: Digital media and the personalization of contentious politics. Information, Communication & Society15(5), pp. 739–768.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Bimber, B., Cunill, M.C., Copeland, L. and Gibson, R., 2015. Digital media and political participation the moderating role of political interest across acts and over time. Social Science Computer Review33(1), pp. 21–42.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Bimber, B., Stohl, C., and Flanagin, A. J. 2008. Technological change and the shifting nature of political organization. In A. Chadwick and P.N. Howard (Eds.), Routlegde Handbook of Internet Politics, pp.72–85. New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
  6. Bochel, C. 2012. Petitions systems: contributing to representative democracy? Parliamentary Affairs, 1–18.Google Scholar
  7. Crozier, M., Huntington, S.P. and Watanuki, J., 1975. The crisis of democracy (Vol. 70). New York: New York University Press.Google Scholar
  8. Dalton, R.J., 2013. Citizen politics: Public opinion and political parties in advanced industrial democracies. Cq Press.Google Scholar
  9. Dumas, C., LaManna, D. Harrison, T.M., Ravi, S.S., Kotfila, C., Gervais, N., Hagen, L., and Chen, F., 2014. Examining political mobilization of online communities through e-petitioning behavior in We The People (extended abstract). Presented at the Social Media & Society Conference, July 27–29, 2014, Toronto, Canada.Google Scholar
  10. Dumas, C., LaManna, D., Harrison, T. M., Ravi, S. S., Hagen, L., Kotfila, C., and Chen, F., 2015a. E-petitioning as collective political action in We the People. iConference 2015 Proceedings.Google Scholar
  11. Dumas, C.L., LaManna, D., Harrison, T.M., Ravi, S.S., Kotfila, C., Gervais, N., Hagen, L. and Chen, F., 2015b. Examining political mobilization of online communities through e-petitioning behavior in We the People. Big Data & Society2(2), p. 2053951715598170.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Earl, J., and Kimport, K., 2013. Digitally enabled social change: Activism in the internet age (Reprint edition). Cambridge, Mass.: The MIT Press.Google Scholar
  13. Earl, J., and Schussman, A., 2008. Contesting cultural control: youth culture and online petitioning. In W. L. Bennett (Ed.), Civic life online: learning how digital media can engage youth (pp. 71–95). Cambridge, Mass: MIT Press.Google Scholar
  14. Escher, T., and Riehm, U., 2016. Petitioning the German Bundestag: political equality and the role of the internet. Parliamentary Affairs, gsw009.Google Scholar
  15. Fountain, J., 2005. Central issues in the political development of the virtual state. In M. Castells and G. Cardoso, eds., The Network Society: From Knowledge to Policy, pp. 149–181. Center for Transatlantic Relations, Washington, DC.Google Scholar
  16. Fox, R., 2009. Engagement and participation: What the public want and how our politicians need to respond. Parliamentary Affairs, 62(4), pp. 673–685. http://doi.org/10.1093/pa/gsp027 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Gilens, M., and Page, B. I., 2014. Testing theories of American politics: Elites, interest groups, and average citizens. Perspectives on Politics, 12(03), pp. 564–581. http://doi.org/10.1017/S1537592714001595 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Gleeson, J.P., Cellai, D., Onnela, J.P., Porter, M.A. and Reed-Tsochas, F., 2014. A simple generative model of collective online behavior. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences111(29), pp. 10411–10415.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Goldman, J., 2015. How we’re changing the way we respond to petitions. Available at: https://medium.com/@Goldman44/how-we-re-changing-the-way-we-respond-to-petitions-74ed0ffd1d77#.x8jafxx6f. [Accessed 5 Aug., 2016]
  20. Goldman, J., 2016. Redesigning We the People: Improving the way you engage with the White House. Available at: https://medium.com/@Goldman44/redesigning-we-the-people-c8ce93f4280#.t6bdhpy09 [Accessed 5 Aug., 2016]
  21. Hagen, L., Harrison, T.M., Uzuner, Ö., Fake, T., Lamanna, D. and Kotfila, C., 2015a, Introducing textual analysis tools for policy informatics: a case study of e-petitions. In Proceedings of the 16th Annual International Conference on Digital Government Research (pp. 10–19). ACM.Google Scholar
  22. Hagen, L., Uzuner, Ö., Kotfila, C., Harrison, T.M. and Lamanna, D., 2015b, January. Understanding Citizens’ Direct Policy Suggestions to the Federal Government: A Natural Language Processing and Topic Modeling Approach. In System Sciences (HICSS), 2015 48th Hawaii International Conference on(pp. 2134–2143). IEEE.Google Scholar
  23. Hale, S.A., Margetts, H. and Yasseri, T., 2013, May. Petition growth and success rates on the UK No. 10 Downing Street website. In Proceedings of the 5th annual ACM web science conference (pp. 132–138). ACM.Google Scholar
  24. Harrison, T.M. Dumas, C, Kotfila, C., LaManna, D., and Ravi, S.S., 2014. We the People: U.S. E-Petitioning as Technology-Mediated Social Action. Paper presented at the 64th Annual Conference of the International Communication Association (ICA) Seattle, WA.Google Scholar
  25. Harrison, T.M. and Falvey, L., 2001. Democracy and new communication technologies. Annals of the International Communication Association25(1), pp. 1–43CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Held, D., 1996. Models of democracy (2nd ed.). Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.Google Scholar
  27. Howlett, M., Ramesh, M. and Perl, A., 2009. Studying public policy: Policy cycles and policy subsystems (3rd edition). New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  28. Jungherr, A. and Jürgens, P., 2010. The Political Click: Political Participation through E‐Petitions in Germany. Policy & Internet2(4), pp. 131–165.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Kelly, R., and Priddy, S., 2015. e-Petitions: Briefing Paper 20 October. House of Commons. Available at: http://www.legco.gov.hk/general/english/library/stay_informed_parliamentary_news/e-petitions.pdf. [Accessed 4 Aug., 2016]
  30. Lin, Y.R., Margolin, D., Keegan, B., Baronchelli, A. and Lazer, D., 2013.# Bigbirds never die: understanding social dynamics of emergent hashtag. arXiv preprint arXiv:1303.7144.Google Scholar
  31. Lindner, R. and Riehm, U., 2009. Electronic petitions and institutional modernization. International parliamentary e-petition systems in comparative perspective. JeDEM-eJournal of eDemocracy and Open Government1(1), pp. 1–11.Google Scholar
  32. Lindner, R. and Riehm, U., 2011. Broadening Participation Through E‐Petitions? An Empirical Study of Petitions to the German Parliament. Policy & Internet3(1), pp. 1–23.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Macintosh, A., Adams, N., Whyte, A. and Johnston, J., 2008. ePetitioning in the Scottish Parliament. In Digital Government (pp. 487–501). Springer US.Google Scholar
  34. Mechaber, E., 2014. Here’s How Cell Phone Unlocking Became Legal. Available at: https://www.whitehouse.gov/blog/2014/08/15/heres-how-cell-phone-unlocking-became-legal. [Accessed 2 Dec. 2016].
  35. Muhlberger, P., Stromer-Galley, J. and Webb, N., 2011. Public policy and obstacles to the virtual agora: Insights from the deliberative e-rulemaking project. Information Polity16(3), pp. 197–214.Google Scholar
  36. Newton, A., 2002. Petition overview. Available at: http://www.firstamendmentcenter.org/petition-overview. [Accessed 30 Aug. 2016].
  37. Obama, B., 2009. Transparency and Open Government: Memorandum for the Heads of Executive Departments and Agencies. Available at: http://www.whitehouse.gov/the_press_office/TransparencyandOpenGovernment/. [Accessed 10 Dec. 2016].
  38. Public Petitions Committee, 2015. Review of the Petitions Process, 2nd Report. Available at: http://www.parliament.scot/parliamentarybusiness/CurrentCommittees/94915.aspx [Accessed 3 Aug. 2016].
  39. Public Petitions Committee, 2016. Legacy Paper, 2nd Report. Available at: http://www.parliament.scot/S4_PublicPetitionsCommittee/Reports/PPCS042016R02.pdf [Accessed 3 Aug. 2016].
  40. Riehm, U., Böhle, K. and Lindner, R., 2012. Electronic petitioning and modernisation of petitioning systems in Europe. English summary, at http://www.tab-beim-bundestag.de/en/pdf/publications/reports/AB146_Summary.pdf , accessed27.
  41. Schmidt, J.H. and Johnsen, K., 2014. On the use of the e-petition platform of the German Bundestag.Google Scholar
  42. Smith, S.R. and Ingram, H.M., 1993. Public policy for democracy. Brookings Institution.Google Scholar
  43. Street, J., 1997. Remote Control? Politics, Technology and Electronic Democracy’. European Journal of Communication12(1), pp. 27–42.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Stoker, G., 2006. Why politics matters: making democracy work. Palgrave Macmillan.Google Scholar
  45. Tufekci, Z. and Wilson, C., 2012. Social media and the decision to participate in political protest: Observations from Tahrir Square. Journal of Communication62(2), pp. 363–379.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Van Dijk, J., 2012. The network society. Sage Publications.Google Scholar
  47. Wright, S., 2012. Assessing (e-) democratic innovations: “Democratic goods” and Downing Street e-petitions. Journal of Information Technology & Politics9(4), pp. 453–470.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. We The People., 2015. Available at: https://petitions.whitehouse.gov/.
  49. Yasseri, T., Hale, S.A. and Margetts, H., 2013. Modeling the rise in internet-based petitions. arXiv preprint arXiv:1308.0239.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Catherine Dumas
    • 1
    Email author
  • Teresa M. Harrison
    • 1
  • Loni Hagen
    • 2
  • Xiaoyi Zhao
    • 1
  1. 1.University at AlbanyAlbanyUSA
  2. 2.University of South FloridaTampaUSA

Personalised recommendations