Petition Growth and Success Rates on the UK No. 10 Downing Street Website

Hale, S. A., Margetts, H., and Yasseri, T. (2013). Petition Growth and Success Rates on the UK No. 10 Downing Street Website. In Proceedings of the 5th Annual ACM Web Science Conference, WebSci ’13.

7 Pages Posted: 18 Apr 2012 Last revised: 23 Dec 2013

Scott A. Hale

Oxford Internet Institute, University of Oxford

Helen Zerlina Margetts

Oxford Internet Institute, University of Oxford

Taha Yasseri

University of Oxford - Oxford Internet Institute

Date Written: May 2, 2013

Abstract

Now that so much of collective action takes place online, web-generated data can further understanding of the mechanics of Internet-based mobilisation. This trace data offers social science researchers the potential for new forms of analysis, using real-time transactional data based on entire populations, rather than sample-based surveys of what people think they did or might do. This paper uses a `big data' approach to track the growth of over 8,000 petitions to the UK Government on the No. 10 Downing Street website for two years, analysing the rate of growth per day and testing the hypothesis that the distribution of daily change will be leptokurtic (rather than normal) as previous research on agenda setting would suggest. This hypothesis is confirmed, suggesting that Internet-based mobilisation is characterized by tipping points (or punctuated equilibria) and explaining some of the volatility in online collective action. We find also that most successful petitions grow quickly and that the number of signatures a petition receives on its first day is a significant factor in explaining the overall number of signatures a petition receives during its lifetime. These findings have implications for the strategies of those initiating petitions and the design of web sites with the aim of maximising citizen engagement with policy issues.

Keywords: petition, mobilization, trace data, big data, leptokurtic, bursty growth

Suggested Citation

Hale, Scott A. and Margetts, Helen Zerlina and Yasseri, Taha, Petition Growth and Success Rates on the UK No. 10 Downing Street Website (May 2, 2013). Hale, S. A., Margetts, H., and Yasseri, T. (2013). Petition Growth and Success Rates on the UK No. 10 Downing Street Website. In Proceedings of the 5th Annual ACM Web Science Conference, WebSci ’13.. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2041856 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2041856

Scott A. Hale (Contact Author)

Oxford Internet Institute, University of Oxford ( email )

1 St. Giles
University of Oxford
Oxford, Oxfordshire OX1 3JS
United Kingdom

HOME PAGE: http://www.scotthale.net/

Helen Zerlina Margetts

Oxford Internet Institute, University of Oxford ( email )

1 St Giles
Oxford, Oxfordshire OX1 3JS
United Kingdom

HOME PAGE: http://www.oii.ox.ac.uk

Taha Yasseri

University of Oxford - Oxford Internet Institute ( email )

1 St. Giles
University of Oxford
Oxford OX1 3PG Oxfordshire, Oxfordshire OX1 3JS
United Kingdom

HOME PAGE: http://www.oii.ox.ac.uk/people/?id=315

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