I believe that the responses to the poll would look very different if the question asked were:
Should rank be granted only on the merits of one's technical ability?
Although I know many on the board who already have stated this as their opinion, I would really like to hear from anyone who would answer yes to that question, taking into account the following with regards to the regulations for promotion within the Aiki-Kai. It may be similar within most other aikido organizations.
According to what is posted, rank beyond Go-Dan is typically done by promotion only, not through testing. This is a clear indication of how the parent organization views the subject. As such, we, as members should follow their lead. With regards to testing for lower ranks, it really doesn't matter what the new aikido student's attitude is. Simply, if one shows the aptitude towards absorbing the basic technical material, then one passes the test. In only the rarest of problematic cases is attitude or the ability to brown nose, or whatever politically correct phrase you care to choose for those efforts, or other such factors - outside of technical ability - be considered with regards to the issuance of rank. This goes for all testing through the level before just prior to shodan.
What happens at that point is transference from a strictly physical or technical focus to the idea of "connection" being a higher element within the art. Basically, in addition to mastering the technical syllabus, one needs to find a manner in which to connect to the flow of the organization - whatever that may be. This is a purely martial concept, although there are those who do not see it this way. They would decry that there is some unseen element, and therefore an unfair element to be mastered in order to receive an elevation in rank.
One of the more interesting teachings I received from Seiseki Abe Sensei which would aptly apply here is that of Gan-Sa Tan-Riki. The four characters don't literally translate to reveal the inner meaning of the phrase. However, the first character is loosely translated as "see" and the last is physical power. Suffice it to say that each character stands for a separate element on which to focus within the learning process of the art form. Metaphorically, the teaching is to learn to see (what you can not yet see)…. and lastly focusing on what is physical. This is directly associated with the Katsuhayahi within the progression of Masakatsu-Agatsu-Katsuhayahi - sometimes mistakenly translated as, "True victory is victory over oneself." However, that is not an accurate translation, and is an advanced teaching that reveals itself through the proper practice of misogi, and a life lead within the bounds of giri and shugyo…
The Aikikai guidelines with regards to advanced rank are quite clear. There is no simple test that one can take to demonstrate the fact that they have absorbed the more advanced elements of the art. The gate to senior ranking opens by the combined agreement of the teachers with whom one associates themselves, i.e. those senior members who will recommend a person for promotion, agreeing to attach their names, and associated reputations. This is a process of recommendation, not application. One simply can't apply
for advanced ranking. This element is important within any martial art, but especially Aikido, as aikido is the art of aiki, also known as "The harmony between all things." If a student can not create harmony between himself and their teacher, then they are not exemplifying a true understanding of aiki. They therefore should not be promoted no matter what their level of technical understanding. Of course, this leads to the ever-increasingly popular 38 year old 10th dan, creator of the masters-less art of JoeBloe-Do-Kai Aikido, or Severe Combat-Proof Aikido, or Aikido Dim Mak….etc.
Of course, the arguments will forever continue between the two camps, those that understand that aikido is not a group of martial techniques, heck there are enough arts like that -- with arguably better techniques, and those who want just want aikido to be something other than what it is, a Japanese art, created by the Japanese. However, no matter how hard the latter group tries, they can't change the past, so they better focus on themselves… enough so that they can come up with a catchy new name for their version of the art of aikido.