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Office of Technology Assessment at the German Bundestag Office of Technology Assessment at the German Bundestag

Information on the project

Awareness and use of petitions to the German Bundestag

Thematic area: Technology, society, innovation
Analytical approach: Discourse analysis
Topic initiative: Petitions Committee
Status: ongoing
Current project phase: Preparation of the survey
Duration: 2019 till 2020

Background and central aspects of the topic

According to Article 17 (»Right of petition«) of the German Basic Law, every person has the right to address written requests or complaints to the German Bundestag. In the last two years, almost 12,000 petitions were addressed to the German Bundestag, of which approximately two thirds dealt with personal, individual concerns regarding the procedure or decisions of federal authorities. Besides these petitions relating to individual cases, requests for political co-determination are submitted to the Petitions Committee of the German Bundestag. Petitions that receive particularly strong support are dealt with by the Petitions Committee in public meetings. In 2005, the German Bundestag revised and supplemented the procedure for submitting petitions. Since then, petitions can be published on the e-petitioning platform of the German Bundestag at the request of the petitioner. If certain criteria are met, these »public petitions« can be co-signed and discussed in online forums. Moreover, petitions can also be submitted electronically. If a quorum of 50,000 co-signatures is met, the submitters of the respective petition will have the opportunity to bring forward their concerns in a public Committee Meeting.

The TAB has comprehensively accompanied the process of introducing and further developing electronic and public petitions by investigations: The functionality and user-friendliness of the software system, its technical and procedural embedding as well as the use and evaluation by different stakeholders were examined during the scientific monitoring of the pilot project »Public petitions«. In the course of the consolidation of e-petitioning, the awareness of the petitioning system was identified in a survey among the population and the social characteristics, the political activity and Internet use of petitioners as well as their preferences regarding the method of submission were presented (TAB working report no. 146). In this context, differences compared to the overall population became obvious, e. g. with regard to gender and age. The TAB working report no. 173 provides an overview of the further technological developments and discusses, among other things, the challenges posed by extra-parliamentary online petitioning portals.

In its annual reports, the Petitions Committee publishes detailed statistics regarding its activities. According to that, in the long-term average, there are significant fluctuations regarding the number of new petitions submitted. After a decline in the previous years, the figures have risen again slightly in the last two years.

Objectives and approach

The primary goal is to obtain information on which population groups turn to the Petitions Committee of the German Bundestag and to what extent the various groups are aware of the petitioning system. For this, the study takes up the population survey conducted in 2008 with regard to the awareness and reputation of the Petitions Committee of the German Bundestag (TAB background paper no. 17), in which data on the German petitioning system were collected for the first time. Altogether, three surveys will be conducted to address the following groups of people:

  • persons sending a petition to the German Bundestag by post,
  • persons using the online petitioning platform to submit, co-sign or discuss petitions and
  • Internet users resident in Germany (representative online survey).
The surveys focus on the following aspects:
  • Who is aware or not aware of the right to address requests or complaints to the German Bundestag?
  • If they are aware of it: How did respondents learn about this right?
  • Who makes use of the right to submit, publish, discuss or support petitions to the German Bundestag?

In this context, the objective is to differentiate according to socio-demographic characteristics. The core questions mentioned above will be supplemented by questions regarding the awareness and use of conciliation procedures/ombudsman institutions or private petitioning platforms. The results of the surveys will be evaluated and synoptically discussed in a TAB background paper.