"Idol" fans see Archuleta winning: E-Poll/Reuters

LOS ANGELES Tue Apr 8, 2008 4:01pm EDT

''American Idol'' finalists David Cook (L) and David Archuleta are shown in a combination photo from files taken March 6, 2008 in Los Angeles. REUTERS/Fred Prouser

''American Idol'' finalists David Cook (L) and David Archuleta are shown in a combination photo from files taken March 6, 2008 in Los Angeles.

Credit: Reuters/Fred Prouser

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - "American Idol" fans say baby-faced crooner David Archuleta will win the No. 1 television show's current competition, even though they picked rival David Cook as the most talented performer, an E-Poll/Reuters survey found.

As the top-rated U.S. TV talent show entered one of its most-watched weeks when it hopes to raise $100 million for charity on its "Idol Gives Back" program, fans were showing plenty of love for the two Davids.

Archuleta, a 17-year-old native of Utah, was voted the likely winner by 40 percent of "Idol" viewers polled, according to the survey by E-Poll Market Research on behalf of Reuters.

Anointed the man to beat by judge Simon Cowell after he sang John Lennon's "Imagine" in February, Archuleta tied rocker Cook as the one whom viewers wanted to win, with both getting 25 percent of the vote.

But Cook, 25, who has reworked 1980s dance hits such as Michael Jackson's "Billie Jean" and Lionel Richie's "Hello" into edgy, slow-burning rock songs, topped Archuleta 31 percent to 27 percent when it came to proving his talent beyond just singing.

Irish-born belter Carly Smithson was ranked third most talented followed by folksy Brooke White, Aussie Michael Johns, dreadlock-sporting Jason Castro, country girl Kristy Lee Cook and Syesha Mercado.

Past winners such as Kelly Clarkson and Carrie Underwood, and even those who didn't win such as Clay Aiken and Chris Daughtry, have gone on to successful music careers.

"American Idol," which is hosted by Ryan Seacrest, pits singers against one another in a months-long competition for a professional recording contract.

The weekly show draws nearly 30 million viewers, making it the most-watched program on U.S. television. This season's winner will be announced during a live finale in May.

The survey, which was conducted last week, polled roughly 1,100 respondents ages 13 and over who, perhaps surprisingly, had good things to say about razor-tongued Cowell.

Even though his No. 1 trait is "rude" according to E-Poll's E-Score Celebrity data, Cowell was chosen by 64 percent of respondents as their favorite judge.

His fellow judges Randy Jackson and Paula Abdul each received about 17 percent of the "favorite" vote.

Some 85 percent of those polled said "American Idol" would be worse without Cowell, and 75 percent considered him to be the judge with the greatest influence over the way the public votes. Jackson followed with 13 percent and Abdul at 12.

But a large majority, 83 percent, said the judges had little or no impact on the their own votes.

(Editing by Bob Tourtellotte and Philip Barbara)