Political leanings sway US Catholics' opinion of Pope

Pope Francis (CNS/Paul Haring)

A new Pew Research poll of US Catholics shows their regard for Pope Francis is, for the first time, coloured by their political leanings. Source: CNS.

The survey, released yesterday, said it saw “signs of growing discontent with Francis among Catholics on the political right, with increasing shares of Catholic Republicans saying they view Francis unfavourably, and that they think he is too liberal and naive.”

In 2014, one year into Pope Francis’ papacy, “there was no discernible difference between the share of Catholic Republicans (90 per cent) and Democrats (87 per cent) who expressed a favourable view of Francis,” the survey said. “Today, by contrast, the Pope’s favourability rating is 10 points higher among Catholic Democrats (89 per cent) than among Catholic Republicans (79 per cent).”

“In our polling about John Paul II and Benedict XVI, when we look at them we don’t see any falloff from them over time,” Greg Smith, a Pew senior researcher, told CNS. “What’s interesting about this survey that this is the first one where this political polarisation among American Catholics really stands out.”

The poll was the eighth time Pew had asked US Catholics their views about the Pope. Pew had asked Catholics about Pope St John Paul II or Pope Benedict eight times total over 25 years.

Pope Francis still maintains marks any religious or civil leaders would covet: 94 percent of Catholics say he is compassionate and 91 percent say he his humble — numbers unchanged from a 2015 Pew survey. His overall favourable rating is down one point, from 85 to 84 percent, from a 2014 poll. Those with unfavourable views of the pope were double that of 2014, but still in the single digits at 8 percent.

But “the share of American Catholics who say Pope Francis is ‘too liberal’ has jumped 15 percentage points between 2015 and today, from 19 per cent to 34 percent,” the poll said. And 24 per cent of US Catholics now say he is naive, up from 15 per cent in 2015.


U.S. Catholics’ political leanings affect their approval ratings of pope (CNS

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