Poll: Next Bill Gates coming from outside US

China, Japan and U.S. in close competition in U.S. survey on Internet attitudes

Just 21 percent of U.S. residents believe the next Bill Gates will come from their country, according to a new survey on Internet attitudes released Wednesday.

About 27 percent of respondents said they believed the next wildly successful technology entrepreneur will come from China, and another 22 percent said Japan, according to the poll, conducted earlier this month by polling firm Zogby International and public-relations firm 463 Communications, both based in Washington, D.C.

It's not surprising that only a fifth of respondents chose the U.S. as the home of the founder of the next Microsoft, said Tom Galvin, a partner in 463. Most U.S. residents seem to understand that the U.S. competes in a global economy, he said.

"It doesn't mean that the United States is slipping, it's that other countries are catching up," Galvin said. "Americans have a very firm and sophisticated understand of the competitiveness we're dealing with. I don't think they resent it, but they want to know what we're going to do about it."

It was a bit curious that only 13 percent of respondents chose India as incubator of the next Gates, Galvin said.

The survey, of 1,203 U.S. adults, also compared respondents' attitudes about the Internet compared to earlier technologies.

Asked what would make it harder for you to work, your car not starting, or the loss of Internet and e-mail access, an overwhelming 78 percent sided with the car, and only 10 percent chose the Internet. When Galvin has asked the same question of friends in the public-transportation friendly Washington area, the responses ran about 50-50, he said. Eight percent of respondents chose the "neither/other" option.

"I didn't think the Internet was going to beat [the car], but I thought it was going to compete," he said.

The Internet fared better against the printing press. Asked which was the greater invention, 32 percent of respondents said the Internet, while 65 percent said the printing press. "It's going to be one of the interesting debates we're going to have over the next several years," Galvin said.

But respondents said they still prefer the evening news over citizen-created videos. Seventy percent said they prefer to watch the news to get information on an event, while only about 20 percent chose a citizen video.

And asked if the average 12-year-old or the average member of the U.S. Congress knew more about the Internet, the respondents voted heavily against the politicians. Eighty-three percent chose the 12-year-old, and only 10 percent chose the white guys in ties.

Zogby and 463 plan to continue doing the surveys periodically, Galvin said. The survey had a margin of error of 2.9 percentage points.

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