There’s no doubt that social media will play an important role in the 2012 elections, just as it did in both 2008 and 2010. But as its influence grows, so do the amount of spammers using social channels to unethically sway voters.

A new infographic from anti-spam company Impermium shows just how bad social spam has gotten already on Facebook, Twitter, and more with the ongoing 2012 Republican primary. The company estimates that 85 percent of readers on major news networks have been exposed to political spam through social user comments this year.

The culprits behind this political social spam? They’re actually the same guys who send you spam e-mails for Viagra and winning some magical lottery. Impermium says it compared IP addresses and other clues, and it found several matches between political and common spammers.

Although election spam so far has been mostly focused on the GOP primary candidates, Impermium predicts that spam attacks will affect candidates of all parties as the fall general election heats up.

“Our concern is not that political organizations are tapping the power of social networks to get out the vote,” CEO of Impermium Mark Risher said, in a statement. “The challenge is that social media, if leveraged by unethical groups, could be highly effective in coercing voters, and when combined with the criminal spam techniques we observed, could have a devastating impact.”

Check out the full infographic below:


American flag photo: Alex Staroseltsev/Shutterstock