E-petitions and mobilization dynamics: An interaction with a variable geometry. A case study related to the environment

Online petitioning
By Martine Legris, Régis Matuszewicz

We study the seven largest e-petitions in terms of number of signatures (more than 4,000) from the 1,034 environmental e-petitions visible on the website lapetition.be (second largest French-speaking Belgian e-petitions site). Access to this database gives us the opportunity to focus on the reality of the signatories’ behavior rather than on their discourses. While theoretically anyone could sign any petition, our research tends to show that it is primarily people living in the same territory who will add their signatures. We try to solve this enigma of the location of signatures by stressing the link between territorialization factors, based on local networks, and factors promoting the dissemination of signatures beyond the geographically close circle of petitioners (platform effect, social networks, national media coverage). Our study shows the interweaving of local anchoring and processes of diffusion from local signatories to geographically more distant signatories. Petition dynamics proceed either from the basis of a pre-existing local anchoring or through a form of attractiveness of petitions that involves what we call a “platform effect.”

  • online petitioning
  • offline petitioning
  • political mobilization
  • mobilization strategies
  • local anchoring
  • repertoires of contention
  • signatory profiles
  • e-democracy
  • participation
  • online political engagement
  • democracy
  • platform effect
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