Though Most Know Little About Him, Pope Viewed Favorably by Americans
With Pope Francis visiting the United States in just under a month, a newly released Knights of Columbus-Marist poll shows the pope is popular, but largely unknown by the American public.
Nearly six in 10 Americans (58 percent) have a favorable or very favorable view of the pope. That 58 percent number is identical to the favorability rating of Pope Benedict XVI on the eve of his trip to the United States in 2008. Only 10 percent have an unfavorable view of Pope Francis. About a third (32 percent) are unsure or have not heard about him.
Catholics view the Holy Father even more favorably, with 77 percent of Catholics and 83 percent of practicing Catholics viewing him favorably or very favorably.
However, three quarters of Americans (74 percent) know little or nothing about Pope Francis’ visit to the US next month. That number drops to two-thirds (65 percent) among Catholics, and just over half of practicing Catholics (55 percent).
Similarly, about two-thirds (63 percent) of Americans say they rarely or never follow news stories about Pope Francis. The number flips for practicing Catholics, with two-thirds saying they follow news stories about him (67 percent), as do six in 10 Catholics overall (60 percent).
Nevertheless, nearly three quarters of Americans (72 percent) think the pope has a message for all Americans. That number grows to nine in 10 for practicing Catholics (90 percent) and a similar number of Catholics as a whole (88 percent).
Most Americans rate the pope highly for his roles as a spiritual leader, someone who cares about people, an advocate for interfaith relations, and a world leader.
“On his trip to the United States, not only will Pope Francis get to know the American people, but the American people will also get to know him,” said Supreme Knight Carl Anderson. “The pope is popular among Americans, and especially among Catholics, and there is a hunger for his message, with the vast majority of Americans understanding that he brings his message for all of us.”
The survey also found that more than half (56 percent) of Americans – and six in 10 practicing Catholics (60 percent) – think news about Pope Francis is shaped by reporters’ own points of view. Only about one third of each group (35 percent) rates news stories about the pope as “mostly accurate.”
Multiple news sources (CNN, New York Times, FOX News, Local Newspapers, Catholic News Outlets, and the Wall Street Journal) are all rated as trusted by about four in 10 Americans to deliver accurate news about Pope Francis (between 42 and 39 percent – all within the margin of error). Among Catholics, the numbers change drastically. By contrast, seven in 10 practicing Catholics (69 percent) trust Catholic media outlets to report on Pope Francis’ visit
The survey also found that the Catholic Church gets good marks from two-thirds of Americans (66 percent), including 95 percent of practicing Catholics and 90 percent of non-practicing Catholics. Similar numbers say the Catholic Church contributes to people and communities in the United States: (67 percent of Americans, 75 percent of non-practicing Catholics, and 87 percent of practicing Catholics).
This survey of 1,027 adults and 222 Catholic Americans was conducted on August 4th through August 17th, 2015 on both landline and cell phones. Results are statistically significant within ±3.1 percentage points and ±6.6 percentage points, respectively.
Additional results are based on a survey of 3,002 adults and 702 Catholic Americans conducted April 6, 2015 through April 14, 2015 on both landline and cell phones. Interviews were conducted in English or Spanish by telephone using live interviewers. Results are statistically significant within ±1.8 percentage points and ±3.7 percentage points, respectively.