Populism and Downing Street E-petitions: Connective Action, Hybridity, and the Changing Nature of Organizing

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This article explores ongoing debates about whether new media empowers individuals at the expense of formal organizations, and how the nature of organizations/organizing is changing. Focusing on Downing Street E-petitions, it presents a content analysis of over 33,000 accepted petitions, analyzing who or what ‘sponsored’ each petition alongside interviews with petition creators. The analysis finds a wide range of ‘affiliations’, from formal groups to personal information, though many formal groups chose not to use the platform. In apparent support of the populist position, and contradicting resource mobilization theories, individuals created 19 of the 20 most signed petitions. Bennett and Segerberg’s (2013) theory of connective action, and Chadwick’s theories of organizational hybridity (2007) and the hybrid media system (2013) inform a detailed qualitative analysis of how petitions were promoted, and the nature of organization that underpinned this. The analysis finds that organizational structure(s) underpinning successful individual petitions were complex, with extensive organizational hybridity and petitioners exploiting hybrid media logics. Connective action was also apparent, though this did not fit as easily with practice on Downing Street E-petitions.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)414-433
Number of pages20
JournalPolitical Communication
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 3 Jul 2015
Externally publishedYes


  • connective action
  • e-democracy
  • e-petitions
  • hybrid media system
  • organizational hybridity

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