WASHINGTON (CBS DC) — Almost two years after becoming the head of the Catholic Church, 90 percent of U.S. Catholics have a favorable view of Pope Francis.
A new Pew Research Center survey finds that Pope Francis has a favorable rating from 95 percent of all Catholics who attend Mass each week. The soaring popularity of Francis has remained consistent throughout his tenure at the top of the Catholic Church, with favorable ratings comparable to Pope John Paull II in the 1980s and 1990s. Francis even received favorable support from more than two-thirds of religiously unaffiliated Americans.
He has surpassed all favorability ratings attained by his predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI, according to Pew.
Nine-in-ten U.S. Catholics view Francis favorably and nearly six-in-ten have a “very favorable” view of the pope.
“This nearly unanimous approval of the pontiff is striking even for highly observant Catholics. In five separate readings taken over the course of Pope Benedict XVI’s papacy from 2005 to 2013, the highest favorability rating for Pope Francis’ predecessor among regular Mass-attending Catholics was 88 percent, and it dipped as low as 77 percent,” according to Pew.
Among all U.S. adults – Catholic and non-Catholics – seven-in ten (70 percent) see the pope favorably, up 13 points since his election in March 2013. The percentage of overall Americans who see Francis unfavorably has remained steady at about 15 percent.
The survey finds that 86 percent of Catholics who attend Mass less regularly also give Francis a favorable rating, with half rating him very favorably.
Pope Francis’ popularity spans nearly every demographic of ethnicity, gender and political affiliation.
Among “conservative Catholics,” Francis has a 94 percent favorable rating and “moderate/liberal” Catholics favorably rated him at 87 percent. Among Hispanics surveyed, Francis has an 88 percent approval rating. Male Catholics favorably rated the pope at 88 percent and 91 percent of women gave the pope a favorable rating.
The lowest favorability for Francis among the general population of both Catholics and non-Catholics did not dip below 60 percent, which was held by Protestants surveyed by Pew. Pope Francis achieved more than two-thirds (68 percent) favorability among religiously “unaffiliated” Americans.
This latest Pew survey was conducted Feb. 18-22, 2015, on landlines and cellphones among a national sample of 1,504 adults.