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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: Empirical Study
Topic initiative: Petitions Committee
Status: completed
Duration: 2019 till 2020

Subject and objective of the project

According to Article 17 of the German Basic Law, »every person« has the right to address requests or complaints to the German Bundestag. In 2019 alone, some 13,500 petitions were addressed to the German Bundestag. They concerned both general and personal concerns. Petitions reach the Petitions Committee by mail, fax or via the e-petition portal of the German Bundestag. Here, petitions can not only be submitted, but also published for announcement, co-signing and discussion. At the end of 2019, approximately 3.3 million people were registered for this platform.

Each year, the committee submits a detailed report on its activities and evaluates the available process data. However, data on the petitioners and users of the e-petition portal is only collected sparingly and to the extent necessary to protect their personal rights and privacy. Socio-demographic characteristics for statistical purposes are not included, so the Petitions Committee has little information about who addresses and supports petitions to the German Bundestag. The present background paper Nr. 25 (only in German) fills this gap. The study focused on three key questions:

  • Who is aware or unaware of the right to address petitions and complaints to the German Bundestag?
  • If known, how did the respondents learn about this right?
  • Who uses the right to submit, publish, discuss or support petitions to the German Bundestag?

To answer these questions, three surveys were conducted, which addressed the following groups of people:

  • Internet users resident in Germany (representative online survey).
  • Persons who use the e-petition portal of the German Bundestag to submit, sign or discuss petitions and
  • Persons who petition Parliament by post.

Key results

With regard to the core questions of the project, the following central results can be seen:

  • The right to address requests and complaints to the German Bundestag is known to 70 % of the German resident population. Men are more likely than women to know the right to petition, and the proportion of those who do know the right to petition also increases with age. Interviewees with (vocational) school-leaving certificate are more likely to know the right to petition.
  • Classi media such as television, radio and press are most often the information channels through which people have heard about the right to petition the German Bundestag. However, many people also learn about petitions via social media, through family and friends or during their school years.
  • The number of users of the portal of the Petitions Committee at the German Bundestag does not reflect the average population. The users are more often male and tend to be middle-aged. The majority of them have a higher educational qualification. From the petitions portal or from current petitions they learn about the family and circle of acquaintances as well as about the social media.
  • The right to submit petitions on their own behalf by post to the German Bundestag is used primarily by older people. In most cases, postal petitioners are no longer employed. A good third were found to be disabled.
  • The willingness to co-sign petitions is high among the population. Every fourth person has already supported a petition to the German Bundestag, usually via a signature list.
  • Extra-parliamentary petition and campaign portals are only known to a limited extent to the respondents to the representative survey and the postal petitioners. However, users of the e-petition portal of the German Bundestag are usually not only familiar with this portal, but also with extra-parliamentary petition and campaign portals and use them equally for submissions and co-signatures.
  • Furthermore, the results of the representative population survey show that the population also turns to arbitration bodies in areas of public law such as data protection and migration commissioners or anti-discrimination offices.

The results provide possible options for the continuation of information and public relations work on petitions.