Over 90 per cent of mass-attending Catholics favour the Pope, according to a Pew Research survey. The banner of St. John Paul II hangs from the facade of St. Peter's Basilica as Pope Francis leaves his general audience in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican April 30, 2014. CNS photo/Paul Haring

Poll: Pope Francis nearly as popular as St. John Paul II among U.S. Catholics

By  Cathy Lynn Grossman, Religion News Service
  • March 5, 2015

WASHINGTON - Everyone has a high opinion of Pope Francis. Well, almost everyone.

A Pew Research survey released March 5 finds the pontiff rates a 90 per cent “very” or “mostly favourable” rating among U.S. Roman Catholics. For Mass-attending Catholics, it’s a stratospheric 95 per cent total positive rating.

That nudges him nearly to a tie with the immensely popular St. John Paul II, who hit 93 per cent on the favourability chart among Catholics after his 1996 U.S. visit.

The survey also shows Francis well ahead of the scholarly retired Pope Benedict XVI, whose favourability ratings among U.S. Catholics peaked in 2008 when he visited Washington, D.C., and New York City.

And among Americans in general, Pope Francis has a huge fan base six months before his own U.S. visit to those cities and Philadelphia in September. Pew Research found that 70 per cent of the general public rates him favourably. Only 15 per cent do not, and the remainder said they didn’t know enough.

The favourability percentage was lower among Americans as a whole because Protestants and people who claim no religious brand (“nones”) were less likely to check “favourable. Still, the majority had a positive opinion of Francis, including:

  • 60 per cent of white evangelicals
  • 74 per cent of white mainline Protestants
  • 68 per cent of “nones,” or those with no religious affiliation.

(There were too few black Protestants among the 1,504 people surveyed Feb. 18-22 to include in the analysis, according to Pew.)

Pope Francis has grown more popular in the two years since he was elected. The survey found that among Catholics, his favourability rating rose from 84 per cent in March 2013. And for white mainline Protestants, the number was up to 74 per cent (from 65 per cent), while it held steady for white evangelicals.

For the “nones,” however, Pope Francis’ favourability ratings shot up up to 68 per cent from a low of 39 per cent.

The margin of error for the total survey is plus or minus 2.9 percentage points.

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