Jonathan Mellon, Hollie Russon Gilman, Fredrik M. Sjoberg, and Tiago Peixoto; July 2017
As political life moves online, it is important to know whether online political participation excludes certain groups. Using a dataset of 3.9 million signers of online petitions in 132 countries, this paper examines the descriptive success (number of successful petitions) and substantive success (topic of successful petitions) of women and men. Women’s participation is higher than expected in the ‘thin’ action of petition signing, but consistently lower in the ‘thick’ action of petition creation. This paper does not find a link between lower female thick participation and female descriptive success. In terms of substantive success, the paper finds successful petitions reflect female users’ priorities more closely than men’s, independent of the petition initiator’s gender. These results hold both platform-wide and within most countries in the dataset. This paper shows that these results occur due to the low level of petition success (1.2%) on the platform, which increases the importance of thin forms of participation.