Published in Pawtucket Times on September 29, 2015
On a whirlwind trip to Washington, D.C., New York City and Philadelphia over five days, from Sept. 22 to Sept. 27, Pope Francis, 78, has a jam packed public schedule for his first visit to the states. While the media has released dozens of political polls over the last few months giving statistical predictions readers as to who is the GOP presidential frontrunner, last week they published poll results about the popularity of Pope Francis as he toured this country.
America Loves Pope Francis
With the Pope Francis’ arrival to Washington, D.C., to address Congress, a CNN/ORC Poll finds the Catholic pontiff has a high approval rating across the country and most Catholics approve of his comments even those considered controversial.
The pollsters say that almost 50 percent of Americans and 78 percent of Catholics note they are looking forward to the Pope’s first trip to U.S. soil. While the Pope’s positive views have decreased slightly since December 13, 9 months into his papacy, three-quarters of Catholics still view him in a positive light.
The telephone poll, conducted from Sept. 4-8 among a random national sample of 1,012 adults), finds that the Catholic Church itself is viewed positively by 60% of the respondents, while 63% view Pope Francis favorably. Among Catholics, the church (88% favorable) outperforms the Pope (74% favorable). The researchers note that this percentage difference may be due to Catholics who say they’re not sure about Francis rather than from negative impressions.
Comparing a worldwide snap shot of the Pope’s popularity to this country, the CNN/ORC poll findings indicate that non-Catholics (61%) say they have a positive view of Pope, the first Jesuit priest and Latin American church leader, and just over half of these individuals are looking forward to his American visit. Even those with a negative view of the Pope (17%) say they are looking forward to this month’s visit.
A recently published New York Times/CBS News poll also supports the CNN/ORC poll findings, that American Catholics like their Pope. Eight out of 10 of his United States followers give thumbs up to the direction the church is taking under the Pope’s leadership, including a majority who approve strongly.
The telephone poll, conducted from Sept. 8 and 14 with Catholics on both telephone and land lines, also found that more than six in 10 Catholics worldwide view him favorably compared to just 3 percent who just don’t like him. Pollsters say that his positive job approval ratings might be tied to his position on same-sex marriage, abortion, woman issues, immigration and distribution of wealth.
Another national poll, commissioned by Fox News, before Pope Francis’ arrival to this country, also found that the religious leader’s visit is viewed positively across the country and with Catholics, too.
Sixty-eight percent of Catholics view Pope Francis favorably. That increases to a 73 percent favorable among Catholics who attend Mass almost every week, say the findings. Among all voters, 55 percent have a positive opinion of the pope.
The telephone poll of 1,013 registered voters found the Pope is more popular among Catholic women (74 percent) than Catholic men (62 percent). The poll findings indicate that his comments on political issues, such as climate change and income equity, did impact on how Republicans and Democrats perceived him.
According to the Fox News’ poll, 38 percent of those who identified themselves as “very” conservative had a positive view of Pope Francis while only 35 percent of those respondents affiliated with the Tea Party movement viewed him favorably. However, among Democrats respondents, nearly two-thirds had a positive opinion of the pope (65 percent), while just over 50% of these voters feel that way about the Catholic Church (52 percent favorable).
About half of all voters polled (51 percent) and three-quarters of Catholic (75 percent) have a favorable view of the Catholic Church in general. Those attending Mass frequently (83 percent), view the religious institution favorably.
50-Plus Americans Favor Woman Catholic Priests
Finally, AARP, the nation’s largest aging advocacy group recognized for gather opinions of 50-plus Americans on health, finances and later life issues, puts Pope Francis on its polling list because his trip to the United State is considered to be “one of the most topical issues of the day.”
In this national telephone AARP poll, older Americans were asked their thoughts about the head of the Rhode Catholic Church’s leadership. When asked “Do you think Pope Francis is leading the Catholic Church in the right direction?” seventy six percent of the respondents agreed. Thirty five percent of these respondents indicated to the pollster that they were Catholic or had at one point been a practicing Catholic.
Additionally, the AARP poll sought the respondent views about women becoming ordained as priests in the Catholic Church, a controversial and heated issue to many practitioners. Of those surveyed, 66 percent of the older 50-plus respondents favored the change. For this poll question, 37% indicated they were Catholic or had at one point considered themselves. Of these respondents, 70% said the Pope should consider women priests.
Finally, the AARP telephone poll tossed in a question about the afterlife, asking the older respondents whether they believe in heaven and hell. Of those survey, 72 percent said they did.
With Pope Francis concluding his trip and heading back to Rome, last week poll findings indicate that the Pontiff is well liked by the American public and his flock, and that he’s leading his Church in the right direction. With the voters angry about continued political gridlock inside the Washington, D.C. beltway, presidential and congressional candidates can only pray to get Pope Francis’ off the chart polling numbers.