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Friend request: The president wants to be friends on Facebook

Cue the “Like” button jokes.

As the president’s political apparatus gears up to activate key Democratic constituencies for the 2012 election, President Barack Obama is scheduled to hold a Facebook 'town hall' Wednesday that will be broadcast to the social networking site's hundreds of millions of users.

The event, which will be moderated by Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, starts at 4:45pm ET. You can watch a live feed of the town hall here.

The White House says the Facebook event demonstrates the president’s belief that “there are many ways to speak to the American people.”

“It would be nice, it would make our jobs a lot easier, if these were the days when a vast majority of the American audience tuned into Walter Cronkite at night and we could just talk to 'Uncle Walter' and get our message out there,” White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said Monday. “And that’s just not the case anymore.”

Somewhere in the ballpark of half a billion people on the planet use Facebook, for everything from professing their Lady Gaga fandom to ascertaining whether their high school’s “Most Likely to Succeed” awardee lived up to the hype.

But who’s using it  -- and other social media tools like Twitter – for politics?

According to a report by the Pew Internet and Family Life Project, about 1 in 5 internet-using adults used social networking sites to engage in political activity – like swapping information about a campaign, joining an online political group, or “following” or “friending” a candidate --  in the months before the 2010 midterm elections.  

About 40 percent of those who use social media for political purposes are under 30 years old, and about the same percentage have a college degree. (About 75 percent of 18-29 year-olds overall are regular users of social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter, versus about a quarter of adults over 50.)

And they’re about equally divided on the political spectrum.

According to Pew, adults who used social media for politics voted for Republican over Democratic House and Senate candidates by a 45-41 percent margin.

And one of the most active groups “friending” candidates and causes on social media sites?  Tea Party supporters.