A study from Pew Research Center examined the petition site “We The People,” which allowed Americans to sign petitions to the Obama Administration. They found that “petitions have limited legislative impact,” finding only “three instances where petitions led to concrete policy outcomes,” even though there were a total of 38.5 million signatures on more than 473,000 distinct petitions.
Some fans of online petitions assert that they help build an audience that is interested in an issue. This is true if the petition is followed by more impactful actions, which we will cover later in this course.
But if you are trying to get your voice heard in government; adding your name to a petition has very little influence to your elected official.
We do, however, want to point out that starting a petition seems to be effective when they target large corporations that sell to consumers. Petitioning a company to change its business practices usually gets the attention of company executives because bad publicity impacts sales.