Howard Stern's Net Muscle

LEONARDO DICAPRIO HAS been laid low by a dwarf--and the vagaries of Internet polling. Early vote tallies in People magazine's third annual online poll of the "Most Beautiful People" has Hank the Angry, Drunken Dwarf as online readers' favorite, with 212,313 votes as of May 4, vs. lovely Leo's 12,885.

Is it a blowout of titanic proportions? More likely, it's an example of the power of Howard Stern. Hank, a guest on Stern's radio show, began showing up in the poll on Apr. 23 as a write-in vote after Stern's fans urged people, through Web-site postings and E-mail missives, to vote for him. Officials at Howard Stern's show declined to comment.

Online surveys that allow people to write in votes make it even more difficult than usual to ensure that those taking part are representative of the overall population, says David Krane, executive vice-president at Louis Harris & Associates Inc.

If Hank maintains his lead when voting ends on May 8, he'll have his life story published on the Web site--though he won't make it into the magazine.

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