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23 December 2011

E-petitions: which are up and which are down?

Voters care more about the RPI/CPI switch than they do about capital punishment.

By George Eaton

The latest e-petition to win the media’s attention is that calling for Margaret Thatcher’s proposed state funeral to be “privatised”. So far, it has had 16,186 signatures, 83,814 short of the 100,000 required to trigger a Commons debate. Since the site was launched in August, six e-petitions have passed the threshold, the latest being one opposing the government’s decision to uprate benefits in line with the Consumer Price Index, rather than the (generally higher) Retail Price Index, a move that will cost some families hundreds of pounds a year.

But what of those that have fallen flat? When the site was launched, it was widely assumed that Guido Fawkes’s petition to restore capital punishment would race past the 100,000 mark. George Young, the leader of the House, named the death penalty as one of the issues that he expected Parliament to discuss, the petition made the front page of the Daily Mail and several Conservative MPs, including Philip Davies, Priti Patel and Andrew Turner, lent their support.

But the petition has since struggled to gain traction. As the screengrab below shows, just 25,822 people have signed it. Indeed, a rival petition to retain the ban on capital punishment is ahead on 32,770 signatures

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Evidently, the public aren’t as desperate to bring back the death penalty as some imagine. Opinion polls continue to show that the majority of voters support capital punishment for murder (a YouGov poll in September 2010 found 51 per cent in favour and 37 per cent opposed) but as UK Polling Report’s Anthony Wells notes, over the past decade, support has fallen from around 70 per cent. The intensity of support has also declined over the same period. Most voters want the government to restore capital punishment but few now view it as a priority.

The pro-death penalty campaign only has until 4 February 2012 to garner the requisite 100,000 signatures.