The Political Click: Political Participation through E-Petitions in Germany

Andreas JungherrOtto-Friedrich Universitat Bamberg
Pascal JürgensJohannes Gutenberg-Universität Mainz


Electronic petitions can serve as an influential mechanism for political participation. We present a study on the dynamics in the German e-petition system which was introduced in late 2008. Drawing on a data set of signatures, we analyze four aspects: (a) the types of petitions found, (b) the temporal dynamics of petitions, (c) the types of users found, and (d) the intersection of different petitions’ supporter populations. We present evidence that (a) the system is dominated by a very small number of high-volume petitions and (b) these high-volume petitions have a delayed boosting effect on the base activity in the petition system. We furthermore (c) present a typology of users, showing that although highly active “new lobbyists” and “hit-and-run activists” exist, one- or two-time petitioners have the largest impact. Finally, it is indicated that (d) many of the high-volume petitions share a significant part of their user base, hinting at a complex, topically motivated network of supporters. Through the application of methods from what has been called “Computational Social Sciences,” we illuminate a highly relevant field of political behavior online, while demonstrating the capability of data-driven approaches in such novel domains.

Recommended Citation

Jungherr, Andreas and Jürgens, Pascal (2010) “The Political Click: Political Participation through E-Petitions in Germany,” Policy & Internet: Vol. 2: Iss. 4, Article 6.
DOI: 10.2202/1944-2866.1084
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