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Surprise! Barack Obama, Ron Paul win MySpace 'primaries'

Both parties' Web favorites are named the winners among the "MySpace generation." But that doesn't make the outcome of real primaries any clearer.

Iowa what?

Amid the frenzied press coverage over Thursday's too-close-to-call caucuses in the Hawkeye State, 153,226 users have already cast their (unofficial) votes.

In a set of "virtual primaries" held on Tuesday and Wednesday, Republican Rep. Ron Paul and Democratic Sen. Barack Obama were declared the winners of the News Corp.-owned social-networking site's polls.

The poll was conducted entirely through MySpace's Impact political site. And for those who have been following Election 2008 on the Web, neither "victory" is particularly surprising.

On the Democratic side, MySpace users selected Obama nearly 2 to 1, with the Illinois senator taking 46 percent of the vote, followed by Hillary Clinton with 31 percent and then John Edwards with 8 percent. Obama's triumph among MySpace's young and tech-savvy user base is no surprise--he has proven a favorite among many young voters hoping for change, as well as a sizable portion of left-leaning geeks.

But in Thursday's Iowa caucuses, Obama doesn't enjoy such a clear advantage--the outcome remains too close to tell.

Ron Paul, however, is a different story. The Texas congressman is considered quite the long shot, failing to poll above more than a few percentage points nationwide. But his libertarian views and vocal opposition to the war in Iraq have found a welcome home on the Web, and MySpace is no exception. In the social network's virtual primaries, Paul won by an impressive margin with 37 percent of the vote, followed by more legitimate offline contenders Rudy Giuliani (18 percent) and Mike Huckabee (16 percent).

"Exit poll" questions in the MySpace primary revealed that 83 percent of participants plan to vote in their states' actual primaries, and 91 percent plan to vote in the general U.S. election. They also named the economy and jobs, the war in Iraq, and health care to be the three most important issues facing the country.

Representatives from the social network, which has launched an extensive youth-voting initiative and political awareness campaigns for the 2008 election, have stressed that the results of the primary represent the "MySpace generation," and consequently probably don't reflect the nation as a whole.

Additionally, it should be noted that while the poll was offered only to members of MySpace's main U.S. site (not its international editions), it did not require respondents to be of legal voting age. And while MySpace has said the average age of respondents is 29 years old, such a figure should be taken with a grain of salt because no age verification system was in place.

But when it comes to the political leanings of avid social network users, MySpace's results may not be far off base. Rival social network Facebook has also launched a politics site in conjunction with ABC News, and ongoing presidential-candidate polls show Obama and Paul as the front-runners there too.