Support for Kerry drops among Catholic voters, says poll

Poll results released yesterday show Catholic presidential candidate John Kerry receiving only 20 percent support among the United States’ 51 million Catholics on issues where he opposes the Church's position.

Zogby International conducted the poll, commissioned by Associated Television News (ATN) and the O’Leary Report.

Only 23 percent of those polled support Kerry on the question of stem-cell research; 23 percent received his support on same-sex unions, 21 percent on school vouchers, and 18 percent on voluntary school prayer.

According to the poll, his support dropped to 6 percent on parental notification, 10 percent on appointing federal judges, 10 percent on same-sex marriage, and 12 percent on protecting the unborn.

The results have received different interpretations. O'Leary Report publisher, Brad O'Leary, said the results show “political potential.”

"The traditional thinking among pundits suggests that the America's Catholic voters are segmented,” he said.

He pointed out that white Catholics, who attend church regularly, voted for Bush in 2000. That gave Bush 47 percent of the Catholic vote – an increase of 10 percent over those who voted for Bob Dole in 1996.

On the other hand, Hispanic voters, who attend church less regularly, voted for Gore in 2000 and are still considered potential Democrat supporters, he said.

“That leaves the political middle,” he noted, “which sides with Bush on abortion and gay marriage and with Kerry on social issues."

Pollster John Zogby did not consider the results as significant. "I am not convinced that Catholics vote as Catholics,” he said. “I don't think religion is a principal identifier.

“I also am not sure many Catholics will be near enough to a church to hear the bishops' message. Those who do go to mass frequently are mainly already conservative,” he said.

“Issues like the economy, the war in Iraq, and health care will probably be more important in determining how Catholics – and all Americans – vote," he added.

In fact, the poll indicated that 20 percent of Catholic voters felt they would consider issues, other than those of a religious nature, in choosing their president.

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