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Survey says: Preteens pack Net smarts, politicians don't get it

Do you think the next Bill Gates will come from a country other than the United States? Do you think the average 12-year-old knows more about the Internet than your representative to Congress?

If so, you're not alone.

A poll to be released Wednesday by Zogby International and 463 Communications, a firm that specializes in communications strategies for technology companies, found that 49 percent of respondents believed the next tech bigshot will come from China or Japan, while nearly 13 percent believed that leader will emerge from India. About 23 percent said they thought the Bill Gates successor would be a U.S. native.

And perhaps unsurprisingly--given a summer episode in which the blogosphere ridiculed veteran Alaska Sen. Ted Stevens for referring to the Internet as --about 83 percent of the surveyed folk predicted that a 12-year-old child could outsmart their U.S. congressmen on all matters Net-related. (About 10 percent believed just the opposite, and about 6 percent weren't sure.)

The Zogby/463 survey of about 1,200 adults age 18 and older was conducted via telephone over four days in early December. The largest proportion of survey respondents counted themselves in the 30 to 49 age range. The majority identified themselves as moderate or conservative in their political leanings.

But when it came to deciding which political party has a better "grasp" of the Internet, survey respondents were mostly, well, undecided. About 30 percent threw their confidence behind Democrats, 20 percent chose Republicans, and more than 40 percent picked "neither" or said they weren't sure. (A recent CNET scorecard of all 535 members found a mixed bag as far as high-tech cred is concerned.)

The poll touched on a wide array of other matters, including the explosion of user-generated media through . Overall, about 70 percent of respondents said they'd still rather watch the evening news coverage of an event than a citizen video report--although about one-fourth of those aged 18 to 49 said they'd prefer the citizen video coverage.

And lest anyone presume the Information Superhighway is the end-all in the survey respondents' daily lives, 78 percent admitted they still depend more on a functioning car for their jobs than on Internet and e-mail access.