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

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.

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Fig. 1
Fig. 2

Notes

  1. 1.

    See https://secure.avaaz.org/en/.

  2. 2.

    See https://www.change.org/.

  3. 3.

    See http://www.parliament.scot/gettinginvolved/petitions/.

  4. 4.

    See https://epetitionen.bundestag.de/epet/petuebersicht.html.

  5. 5.

    See https://petition.parliament.uk/.

  6. 6.

    See https://petitions.whitehouse.gov/.

  7. 7.

    See http://petitionmap.unboxedconsulting.com/?petition=131215.

  8. 8.

    See https://epetitionen.bundestag.de/epet/petuebersicht/mz.nc.html.

  9. 9.

    Prior to the April, 2016 changes, users were able to search by keyword or subject categories. The search feature is no longer available and now users have to read through page after page of current petitions to sign.

  10. 10.

    Individual, Community Groups, Interest Groups, Charities, Local Authority, Trade Union, Other, and Offline Petitioner.

  11. 11.

    See https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions.json?state=open.

  12. 12.

    See https://data.parliament.scot/#/datasets.

  13. 13.

    Instructions on how to do this are given to the petition creator after they have created their petition.

  14. 14.

    The original threshold to receive a response was 5000 raised to 25,000 in October, 2011 and raised again to 100,000 in January, 2013.

  15. 15.

    See http://webarchive.nationalarchives.gov.uk/20160105160709/, http://www.ons.gov.uk/ons/guide-method/classifications/current-standard-classifications/soc2010/soc2010-volume-3-ns-sec--rebased-on-soc2010--user-manual/index.html#14.

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Dumas, C., Harrison, T.M., Hagen, L., Zhao, X. (2017). What Do the People Think?: E-Petitioning and Policy Decision Making. In: Paulin, A., Anthopoulos, L., Reddick, C. (eds) Beyond Bureaucracy. Public Administration and Information Technology, vol 25. Springer, Cham. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-54142-6_12

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