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Pope Francis’ popularity among Americans goes from high to higher

Pope Francis shows a free ticket during his Wednesday general audience in Paul VI Hall at the Vatican on Jan. 11, 2017. Photo courtesy of Reuters/Alessandro Bianchi

(RNS) Politicians and celebrities can only envy Pope Francis’ popularity ratings.

Where many in the public eye drop in favor over time, the pope’s popularity among Americans has jumped, according to a study released by the Pew Research Center on Wednesday (Jan. 18).

In March 2013, when he began his papacy, 57 percent of Americans held a favorable view of Francis. Now 70 percent say they think favorably of him.

Pope Fracnis' favorability in the U.S. Graphic courtesy of Pew Research Center

Pope Francis’ favorability in the U.S. Graphic courtesy of Pew Research Center

“Pope Francis is even more popular among U.S. Catholics than he is among the public as a whole,” wrote Pew researcher Claire Gecewicz in a blog on the new survey.

Eighty-seven percent of those in his own flock rate the pope favorably.

Though the study doesn’t speculate as to the reasons for Francis’ popularity, many Americans seem to appreciate his unassuming ways — from his preference for a modest car to his telephone calls to ordinary parishioners — and his welcoming gestures to divorced and gay Catholics.

His predecessor, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, who took a more traditional approach to the papacy, had favorability ratings from Americans that ranged from 49 percent to 61 percent.

So-called nones — those without a religious affiliation — also like Francis, with 71 percent viewing him favorably.


About the author

Lauren Markoe

Lauren Markoe has been a national reporter for RNS since 2011. Previously she covered government and politics as a daily reporter at the Charlotte Observer and The State (Columbia, S.C.)


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  • Pope Francis’ popularity among Americans goes from high to higher. Americans. They are something else! One thing is for certain!! They just love to see a train wreck!

  • The world’s most admired spiritual leader is the Dali Lama. The pope is only the 13th most admired man. ( That’s because the same for-profit US media that gave the GOP nomination to Trump and sustains an entirely false depiction of the pope is not operative in the rest of the world.

  • Popularity is irrelevant, it has nothing to do with substance. If you ask a room full of pre-schoolers if they want to have candy for breakfast, they will all tell you “yes” as well.

  • This “pope” is popular only because he tells the mast majority of Catholics what they want to hear. People living in sin want to be around and listen to people just like them. Eyes and ears of the faithless majority are closed to Holy Truth.

  • Frankly, those numbers in a secular society–including poorly catechized Catholics since Vatican II–ought to be reason for grave concern. 42 percent of “Catholics” do not even believe in the real presence of Jesus in the Eucharist and 47 percent support the murder of unborn children. I can only hope this is another fake poll and a higher percentage have actually caught on to this heretic.

  • Do any of the commenters here have a clue? He is no heretic. He is definitely different though…
    If Benedict likes him, why do you hate him so? Benedict himself said that he was “unsure about Francis”, but later last year endorsed him and said he was proud to have assisted in his transition. Come on now, we have other more concerning leaders to worry about right now….