Ron Paul -- spamming or swarming?
I wrote this (as "anonymous") on the Elephant Biz blog, and I thought I'd put it here as well, since it's a brief synopsis of what I think about the accusations that Ron Paul supporters are "spamming" online polls:
Are the same people voting in multiple polls? Probably. Are they voting multiple times in the same poll? Probably not -- or at least, not any more than supporters for other candidates. Checking the IP address, using cookies, and validating e-mail addresses would prevent the vast majority of that from happening.
Thus, I don't think "spamming" is the correct word, though "swarming" might be. While it can be annoying for websites that prefer other candidates, it does show how excited some people are about the election. Rather than ban a particular candidate, I think other candidates should differentiate themselves from the pack in order to generate the same excitement -- people tend to root for the underdog, and a person standing for his convictions in the face of widespread opposition is attractive to many. For example, John McCain impressed me with his principled stand against torture, especially since he was the only person on the stage to have endured it (granted, he lost most of that goodwill with his stand on immigration, but that's another subject).
Finally, the Republican Party has to decide whether their platform is a big tent or a pup tent. If they can't defend their views against a person in their own party, how will they fare in the general election? The Iraq issue isn't going to go away between now and Novemeber 2008.
For me, "spamming" means a small group of people voting over and over in the same poll, while swarming means a larger group of people who vote in many (most? all?) of the polls they see, but only once per poll. The latter might annoy some people, but it's no more unethical than if Gallup and Pew called the same person on the same subject, and they answered both times. "I'm sorry, I already answered that question for a Gallup poll, so I can't answer it here" seems a little excessive.
My suggestion for other candidates (as mentioned above) is to find an important position where you disagree with the majority of your compatriots, and give a firm, reasoned defense of that position. It will help differentiate you from the rest of the pack, and generate excitement with those who agree with your position. Saying "Me, too!" and "I'd do that -- twice as much!" doesn't give anyone a reason to vote for you over anyone else in the race.