Over 40,000 e-petitions have been submitted to parliament since the current system was introduced in 2015. Cristina Leston Bandeira and Viktoria Spaiser have conducted research into how the public views the consequent parliamentary discussion of issues raised in these petitions by analysing comments made by those watching the live parliamentary coverage. Their findings lead them to conclude that parliamentary debates should be adapted to be more inclusive of the original petitions’ aims.
Parliament introduced an e-petitions system in 2015 with the aim of enhancing its relationship with the public. The system has seen extraordinary levels of usage, with over 40,000 e-petitions submitted and plenty of other evidence of very considerable engagement from the public, such as petitions debates regularly being the most read debates on Hansard. The extraordinary usage is only one element of this new system, however. At the Centre for Democratic Engagement, we have been investigating it, focusing in particular on the more subtle expressions of engagement, beyond usage numbers. We have interviewed petitioners, developed participant observation, and analysed petitions data, parliamentary documentation and social media activity associated with e-petitions.
Some of this research has now started to come out, namely our latest article in Policy & Internet, where we use natural language processing, machine learning and social network analysis of Twitter data to explore what it shows about the extent of people’s engagement, the contents of Twitter e-petition conversations, who is taking part and how they interact. In this blog post we focus on how the public react to the format of the e-petitions parliamentary debates, through their comments on Twitter whilst they watch these debates. Our findings provide interesting insights into how people perceive the e-petition procedures in terms of fairness and responsiveness, suggesting that petition parliamentary debates could be more inclusive of the original petitions’ aims. Continue reading