Just Once, Please Listen

It is impossible to ignore the significance that the internet has had on American politics.  From organization, communication, and opinion dissemination, the world wide web has rapidly grown into a tool used increasingly from insiders to laymen, and for the most part this is a great thing.  If we’ve any hope to overcome voter apathy, it’s by providing a political forum that allows citizens to become engaged in the process, and the interent shows amazing potential in this regard.

But the freedom and power of the internet has its drawbacks as well, and one of those is being shown in spades with Ron Paul supporters.  I touched on this just recently:

There’s no question that RP mobility is awe-inspiring on the internet.  Ron Paul supporters scour the nets for links to Ron Paul, for polls, blogs, etc.  When they catch something, it seems as though the entire crowd collapses and floods.  As a result, Ron Paul consistantly outshines opponents in online polls, and any blog brave enough to mention his name risks getting bushwhacked by hundreds, maybe thousands of supporters almost instantly.

The sheer volume of online support, therefore, provides a false sense of immensity of the Ron Paul movement, which in turn further energizes already scarily zealous supporters.  The problem is, this doesn’t reflect the actual support for Ron Paul in comparison to his rivals.

I like covering horse race, and tend to spend a decent amount of time picking through polls and trying to keep tabs of what candidates are doing on the trail.  While I have reported on internet polls in the past, I have been careful to do so with a measure of skepticism, and nearly always remind my readers that these things are not scientific, and therefore probably one of the poorest indicators of how a candidate is actually doing on anything.

Ron Paul provides an excellent reason why.

Real polls pick their audience based off of a scientifically selected sampling of likely voters.  This is done in an attempt to take a realistic snapshot of the electorate so the poll can be used to provide actionable data.  If, for instance, you are yourself a presidential candidate and you want to make yourself feel better, than you only poll those who have your signs in their yards.  But if you want to know where you are lacking supporters, or how you are doing against your opponents, then you poll the entire populace (Rudy’s apparently been known to partake in the former, don’t ask me why, he just does).

Internet polls are different, they aren’t selected, they are participated in.  So, what happens with the Paulites is they flood the things where other supporters may only engage in casual participation at best.  There’s no way to control the populace sampled, and therefore the integrity of what is reported is essentially nil.  The result when, say, Paul supporters go and flood these polls is that they render the results reported essentially worthless.

Of course, I experienced something of a backlash from some Ron Paul supporters, but what they managed to miss was the point, which was not to elevate or impugn Ron Paul himself in any way.  Instead it was to simply point out that a vast majority of Ron Paul supporters seem to lack both an understanding on how internet political data collection works, as well as something of a misunderstanding of internet etiquette, which is funny because the blogosphere is itself not typically a very polite place.

This concept I attempted to expound upon would later be illustrated following the CNBC economics based debate.  As many sites will often do following a debate, CNBC put up an internet poll, but due to Ron Paul supporters, CNBC soon had to take the poll down, and the episode resulted in Managing Editor Allen Wastler to pen an open letter to the libertarian candidate’s supporters:

So there was our after-debate poll. The numbers grew … 7,000-plus votes after a couple of hours … and Ron Paul was at 75%.

Now Paul is a fine gentleman with some substantial backing and, by the way, was a dynamic presence throughout the debate , but I haven’t seen him pull those kind of numbers in any “legit” poll. Our poll was either hacked or the target of a campaign. So we took the poll down.

The next day, our email basket was flooded with Ron Paul support messages. And the computer logs showed the poll had been hit with traffic from Ron Paul chat sites. I learned other Internet polls that night had been hit in similar fashion. Congratulations. You folks are obviously well-organized and feel strongly about your candidate and I can’t help but admire that.

But you also ruined the purpose of the poll. It was no longer an honest “show of hands” — it suddenly was a platform for beating the Ron Paul drum. That certainly wasn’t our intention and certainly doesn’t serve our readers … at least those who aren’t already in the Ron Paul camp.

The point is this; showing support for your candidate is fine, no one begrudges you that.  But the actions of the RP supporters have gone beyond this in many cases, and in so doing have hurt their own case.  This is not a case of “the man” keeping Ron Paul down, this is a case of Ron Paul supporters abusing the system, and having parts taken down as a result.

Friend of the blog, and a Ron Paul supporter in his own right, Publius Endures saw what many fellow Ron Paul supporters were doing, and penned a thoughtful and important piece that you need to read and heed if you’re a supporter of Ron Paul, and really want to make a difference on the internet.

Also, I want to add a little something on my own.  Don’t try and “game” the system.  Ron Paul’s actual support is in the lower single digits.  That’s still a lot of people, and nothing to be ashamed of, but he’s not, in real world data, even close to having the numbers of supporters that Rudy Giuliani has, or Fred Thompson.  You win nothing by winning an internet poll, and frankly, you’re kinda wasting your time, and pissing off the political class, by even attempting to do so.

As I said in the beginning, the internet is a great tool, and can be used to much effect, but only if you know how to use it wisely.  If you want to do so, don’t hop from every blog post that mentions Ron Paul and start spamming.  You might want to read it first to see if the person is even likely to be converted.  Second, if you push too hard on anything, people are going to pull away, that’s just human nature.

Even better, start a blog of your own.  They’re free and easy, and if you get the ears of a more experienced blogger, you can pretty quickly learn some of the tricks of the trade that will help you get your message out to more people.

Also, get off the internet once in a while.  Ron Paul’s internet organization is astounding, but where he is really lacking is in the grass roots and the ground game.  If you really want to help your candidate out, turn off the laptop, and start canvassing and making signs.  Go to rallies, and if you really have the time and money, head out to the early states and try and make head way there.

There’s a lot you can do to help your candidate, but right now, far too many of you are doing little more than hurting him. 


10 Responses to “Just Once, Please Listen”

  1. Shane says:

    I still don’t understand what the problem is. What do want Paul supporters to do? note vote for their guy? not organize so well? not share their opinion on an article or blog about their guy? Not go to straw polls? Not create their own campaign signs and banners and stickers?

    Not be passionate about the candidate because, why?

    Seems like so much jealousy to me.

    Ron Paul and his supporters do not have a monopoly on the internet, the street corners or the blogs. “flooding the polls” as if that’s a bad thing?!!?

    I’m supposed to not vote for my candidate in a poll because other people are as well? that absurd. lets not forget that a huge part of paul’s base is on the internet and is younger than 35, the ones most likely to be voting in an online poll.

    There is nothing stopping supporters from any other campaign from doing the same, in fact, i wish they did it would show that people want to participate in the system.

    The thing is if the supporters of the other guys can’t even manage to get organized or passionate enough to vote online what makes you assume that they’ll bother to show up to vote in person, or that paul’s passionate followers will not?

    “abuse the system”?

    get real.

  2. Michael Wagner says:

    All of this still leaves one wondering exactly why it is that NO OTHER candidate inspires this kind of passion, this level of activity.
    If support for Giuliani was really so widespread, why do his supporters not network to hit the polls the way Ron Paul supporters do. Simple answer – there aren’t as many real people who support Giuliani as support Ron Paul. Take a look at the straw polls. You know, the ones where real people have to drive to the event and sometimes pay a fee to vote. There have been 33 of these polls so far and Ron Paul has beaten Giuliani in 29 of them.
    If the people really supported these other candidates, why don’t they show up at the straw polls? Why is it that ONLY Ron Paul supporters show up?
    Also, why is it that Thompson has a hard time getting 50 people to show up when he gives a speech, and Giuliani struggles to fill 200 seats when Ron Paul easily gets 1000 people to show up on short notice? Where are McCain’s 2500 person rallies? How come Thompson couldn’t fill a room in his home state of Tennessee when Ron Paul filled a 1400 seat auditorium in Nashville?
    And don’t forget the nearly 54,000 activists that Ron Paul has working for his campaign – all unpaid, all volunteer.
    You and the so called “scientific polls” are drastically underestimating Ron Paul.
    You best start getting used to the phrase “President Paul.” You will be hearing it a lot the next few years.

  3. Scott Hepburn says:

    Why is the author so obsessed with phone polls?

    There are dozens of ways to measure support. Yes phone polls are one measure that is particularly accurate in distingushing between two candidates that have equal name recognition (i.e. during the general election). But during the primary season, phone polls have significantly lower value.

    My point is that the author should broaden his perspective on how to measure popularity of a candidate.

  4. Alexia says:

    “If you really want to help your candidate out, turn off the laptop, and start canvassing and making signs. ”

    That’s just funny!!!

  5. tsoldrin says:

    You seem to undercut your own point when you point out the flood of angry e-mails and responses. This alone indicates that there is a rather large base of Ron Paul supporters, only reinforcing the fact that these ‘flooded’ polls are actually fairly accurate. Ron Paul may not be showing huge numbers in the so called ‘legit’ polls, but that only means that his base is largely comprised of UN-likely Republican voters. Let that sink in for a moment to understand all of the ramifications there. The numbers are there, and by all possible metrics they are growing, and they are (now) voters. What’s the mystery? I can only take your arguments as a rather large ‘misunderestimation’ of Ron Paul’s support and an unwillingness to admit your surprise.

  6. Martin says:

    Your advice is to quit supporting Ron Paul in online polls b/c we’re “pissing off the political class”???

    I’ve never seen this blog before-just clicked over from memeorandum. So I have no context.

    If this post is satire-it’s funny.If you’re serious-you’re an idiot. Cheers!

  7. Moore: refrain from exercising your sub-par intellect on this type of question. Your feeble effort betrays your incapacity to reason, and shows you to be a hack of the lowest order.

    Paul’s message reaches people. And it reaches them powerfully. They are then moved to express their interest in Paul as a candidate.

    In all polls done by organizations who have an interest in letting the voice of the polled speak, Paul does well.

    It is only in polls where the polling organization ‘decides’ that Paul is not a worthy candidate that we see the ‘results’ that indicate that he is not a worthy candidate. How great a surprise!

  8. lester says:

    why would ron paul supporters want to heed advice from a democrat on how to behave ethically and/ or get elected?

    even bill clinton admitted “the age of big government is over”.

    So basically it’s been about forver since a leftist was in office. and the dems are at about 11% approval and have pledged to do everything in their power short of getting out of their seat to get the trooops home by 2013. woo hoo!

  9. Man, thanks for the plug. I’ve been avoiding blogging this weekend thanks to getting sucked into a couple debates over at Megan McArdle’s site.
    Anyways, I don’t have a problem with the crashing of the polls- I don’t think it’s malicious, and it is generally a result of the intensity of RP’s online support (which, as my post explains is very different from real world support). As long as people are only voting once (which seems to be the case), there is no harm in voting (though, if you are trolling around looking for polls to vote in, you may want to look into better things to do with your time)(snark intended).

    However, the dramatically skewed numbers make the poll masters justified in pulling the polls- the intensity of RP’s online support essentially makes any online poll even more statistically worthless than they usually are (which is saying something!). The fact is, I have no idea why these news sites even do online polls and try to pass them off as somehow having meaning to begin with. If the result of RP supporters crashing internet polls is an end to MSM internet polls entirely, I’d be pretty happy.

    I’m guessing that the intensity of RP’s support will translate into noticeably higher numbers in the primaries/caucuses themselve (which are notoriously low-turnout). However, unless RP supporters can find a way of seeming a little less crazed, he will have a hard time appealing to mainstream voters, and won’t have a prayer of getting the nomination.

  10. lester says:

    Publius- mainstream voters like guys with crazed supporters. It’s been proven


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