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SABOTEUR's avatar

How effective are petitions?

Asked by SABOTEUR (12102 points ) January 20th, 2013 from iPhone

I often get requests to support various causes through signing petitions. I’m particularly supportive of efforts to prevent the FDA from imposing restrictions of the sale and use of electronic cigarettes.

I wonder, though, how effective petitions really are.

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2 Answers

elbanditoroso's avatar

My thought: almost never.

They make the sponsor of the petition feel good, like they are actually doing something. And they might make the signer feel like they have made some sort of contribution. But the receiver of the petition – who has presumably decided already NOT to do whatever is requested (otherwise there would be no need for a petition) is under no obligation to (a) read, (b) follow, or© even take seriously what the petition is about.

Remember that petitions are in no way representative or a fair way to measure what the population thinks. Petitions are by definition created by supporters of a point of view, and make no effort to represent or even count non-supporters. Petitions are essentially created by biased pressure groups trying to push their agenda, and make no effort to be fair, balanced, or even rational.

Basically, the petition process is an aberrant end run around the democratic process. Most people understand that, which is why petitions are often completely ineffective.

SABOTEUR's avatar

@elbanditoroso Yeah, I kind of agree with that, but I think petitions probably carry a bit more weight than you or I give credit for. Something you said gave me pause…

”...petitions make no effort to be fair, balanced or even count non-supporters”

That, my friend, is not necessarily true. You’re assuming the all petitions represent fringe interests of self-serving individuals. Some of the petitions I’ve read are well thought out and benefit “non-supporters” as well.

Take for example a mother’s petition urging TMZ to remove a video from their website of her son being shot to death. I have no doubt that you’d support a petition that asked someone not to exploit someone you knew or loved.

You might even support it because you felt it was the right thing to do…effective or not.

Thanks for taking the time to respond, though. You’ve given me food for thought.

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