As political discourse for the upcoming presidential election heats up, 45 percent of Catholics said they support John Kerry and 41 percent said they prefer George W. Bush, according to a recent survey conducted by Georgetown’s Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate.

The study also found that 10 percent of Catholics are undecided, 3 percent support Ralph Nader and 2 percent would like to see a candidate from “some other party.”

Kerry will be the first Catholic Democrat to receive his party’s nomination since John F. Kennedy in 1960, but the survey showed he will receive less support from Catholics than Kennedy did.

In 1960 Kennedy received 72 percent of the Catholic vote, according to data from the American National Election Study.

Researchers blame the disparity in voting patterns on a number of factors including decreased religiosity among the electorate and new political issues.

“Kennedy did not have to deal with the issues of abortion, stem cell research or same sex marriage that are important in the current campaigns and important issues for the Catholic Church,” CARA researcher Mike Gray said in a university press release.

Gray further said that many key issues “cut across party lines” making it “very difficult for any Catholic member of the electorate to figure out how to cast a ballot that is in agreement with Catholic Church teachings and doctrine.”

CARA is a Georgetown-affiliated research organization that focuses on social scientific research affecting the Catholic Church. The margin of error for the survey was plus or minus 3.5 percentage points.

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