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Poll: Big Shift Among Practicing and Non-Practicing Catholics After Papal Visit


More likely to vote, better understand Church teaching, and say trip met or exceeded expectations.

New polling data released May 8 by the Knights of Columbus shows that Pope Benedict XVI’s visit to the United States in April produced a sharp jump in the proportion of American Catholics with a more positive view of the pope following his trip. 

The information provides data specifically about Catholics, and is a companion to the analysis released April 30 about the views of Americans generally. The Marist College Institute for Public Opinion interviewed 1,013 adults nationwide, and the survey results are from an oversample of an additional 502 Catholics nationwide, and are statistically significant at ±4.4 peercent. All polling was done between April 22 and April 29, 2008, immediately following the pope’s return to Rome.

Of particular interest are data showing much more positive views among both practicing and non-practicing Catholics. For example, the proportion of practicing Catholics describing Benedict positively as a spiritual leader went from 70 percent before the visit to 82 percent afterward, a 12 percent jump. Among non-practicing Catholics, the proportion went from 62 percent before the visit to 79 percent afterward, a 17 percent jump.

A majority of Catholics, 54 percent, said they were more in touch with their spiritual values as a result of the pope’s visit, and 41 percent said they were more likely to vote in the November elections as a result.  Sixty-four percent of Catholics said they better understand the Catholic Church’s position on important issues as a result of the trip.

Among the other key findings:

  • 88 percent of practicing Catholic, and 73 percent of non-practicing Catholics say the trip met or exceeded their expectations.

  • 72 percent of Catholics have a more positive view of the Church as a result of the visit, including 82 percent of practicing Catholics and 56 percent of non-practicing Catholics.

  • 81 percent of Catholics – practicing and non-practicing – have a positive view of Pope Benedict, compared to 63 percent before the visit.

  • 72 percent have a more positive view of the Catholic Church, including 82 percent of practicing and 56 percent of non-practicing Catholics.

  • 82 percent of American Catholics view Pope Benedict positively as a world leader

Also important, half (50 percent) say they are more likely to lead a moral life and make family a bigger part of their lives, while nearly 40 percent say they are more likely to become more active in their community or church.

Supreme Knight Carl Anderson said that the poll results “show clearly that Pope Benedict has presented the Catholics of the United States with a tremendous opportunity. Americans are a religious people, and they responded very positively to the message of faith, hope and love that the Holy Father delivered throughout his visit.  It is now up to all of us in the Catholic community to walk through the door he has opened for us, and work together to build a civilization of love.”