Petitioning the German Bundestag: Political Equality and the Role of the Internet
Petitions, as one of the most popular forms of political participation, offer citizens a bottom-up, comparatively low effort means to communicate their wishes to politicians and the public. This article analyses all steps of the petitions process to assess whether it provides all citizens with equal opportunities for participation as well as for realising political voice, with a particular focus on the role of online petitions and the German Bundestag. By surveying hundreds of petitioners—both those using traditional paper petitions and those who use the Internet to submit a petition—along with a representative survey of the population, this study confirms the traditional sociodemographic biases in participation. Online petitions attract younger people and support realising voice through recruiting supporters but do not offer more equality in participation. While the Petition Committee of the Bundestag does not treat certain groups of petitioners preferentially, those submitting petitions on paper have better chances for realising political voice. Overall only a few citizens feel they have realised political voice through their petition, resulting in widespread dissatisfaction.
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