The 912 Project-Nebraska Message Board › I've Got Your Petition!
|A former member||
I was deeply involved with the Save Rosenblatt movement and collected over 2,000 petitions myself, trying to save us the $40,000,000.00 that Mayor Fahey shoved down our throats. We needed 23,000 names, but over 6,000 were thrown out.
Read this, it's true!
Are e-mail petitions effective?
Q. I have some questions about the effectiveness of petitions sent via e-mail. You know the ones I'm talking about. You add your name to a list and then forward it to your friends. How often do they really reach their target? It also seems that there would be hundreds or thousands of copies of the petition. How are these copies sorted and duplicate signatures removed?
—John in St. Petersburg, FL, reading via newsletters
A. I have seen plenty of these e-mail petitions over the years. I haven't given them much thought. I've never put my name on one.
Before we talk about e-mail petitions, let's talk about petitions in general. They share more similarities than you may realize.
People put a lot of faith in petitions. They see petitions as a way to create social change. That's why most petitions are political.
But petitions have a number of problems. For instance, they often don't specify an ultimate recipient. An undirected petition is simply ineffective.
Other petitions may specify a recipient. But the recipient may lack the influence to cause the desired change.
Some petitions reach a person with power. In most cases, this will be a lawmaker. Even then, petitions are not wholly effective.
Petitions show that a group of people hold a certain opinion. But a national petition sent to a member of Congress may be ignored. Say I sign a petition sent to a New York congressman. Why would he care what a person in Arizona thinks? A petition from his district would have more impact.
Petitions also have logistical flaws. Someone needs to compile the signatures. Then, the petition must be forwarded to the appropriate party.
Further, petitions often target complex problems. A petition may be effective if you want to institute casual Fridays. But a petition will do little to solve major societal ills.
Things are even worse when it comes to e-mail petitions. Traditional petitions require handwritten signatures. This offers a modicum of legitimacy. Forged signatures are easier to spot.
With e-mail petitions, you simply add your name to a list. Anyone can add anybody's name to the petition. Because the petition is electronic, forgeries are harder to spot. This calls into question an e-mail petition's legitimacy.
Collecting and compiling the petitions is even more difficult. As you note, there will be beaucoup copies of an e-mail. Names can appear numerous times. And, copies of the petitions can reach dead ends. In fact, most do. They have no way of getting back to the originator. So, they circulate on the Internet until they die out.
So, I don't think much of e-mail petitions. They may raise awareness about an issue. They're also are a way for people to vent or to express an opinion. But that's about it.
The petition you sent me is critical of President Obama. And its complaints are addressed to him. So, let's assume that someone is going to send it to him.
Obama knows that 48 percent of the voters favored somebody else. He probably assumes that most dislike his performance. Can anyone honestly think he will take the time to read this? He'd rather play fetch with Bo, I'm sure.
Petitions give people the illusion that they are accomplishing something. In reality, they're just wasting their time.
In this case, people are getting the chance to vent. Whoever launched this probably should send it to Republican headquarters. It would give them a long list of potential supporters' e-mail addresses.
But the people behind this may well have a darker motive. A petition could be used to harvest e-mail addresses for spam. How much is venting worth to you?
Finally, e-mail petitions can strain Internet resources. And busy recipients may view them as spam. That won't win you any friends! You could start to receive messages from this Cool Site.
There are better ways to make your voice heard. Send a letter to your lawmakers. They'll listen, especially if you have a history of voting.
Or, start a blog. You can get one up and going in minutes. You'll find links to free blogging services on my site:
Of course, you can encourage your readers to write to their lawmakers. Letter-writing campaigns have been effective in the past. Technology shouldn't change that.
You will, of course, need to tell people about your blog. That's easy enough. Word of mouth is effective. But you could get more creative. For example, put your blog link in your e-mail signature. Everyone you e-mail would get the link. I have a free program that will help you with this.