(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 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.