Poll: Pope Francis very popular in U.S.


ST. LEO, Fla. – Americans polled following Pope Francis' historic visit to the United States show incredible support, as 75.8 percent reported either a very favorable or somewhat favorable opinion of the pontiff, according to data collected by the Saint Leo University Polling Institute.

The nonpartisan survey of 1,000 respondents nationwide was conducted to capture Americans' sentiments immediately following the end of the pope's six-day visit. This poll included Catholics, other Christians, members of other faith groups, and those not affiliated with any faith group.

"The pope is very popular, not just among Catholics, but also among Christians, and non-Christians," said Frank Orlando, Saint Leo University instructor of political science. "In the past, politicians needed to work with the pope to help with Catholic voters. While between 20 and 25 percent of all Americans are Catholic, this pope is reaching almost everyone."

Environmental message gains support

"There is widespread agreement with the pope, when he says protecting the environment is the responsibility of all Christians, as polling shows 78.9 percent agree strongly or somewhat (Also, 85.4 percent of Catholics respondents answered the same way)," said Dr. Leo Ondrovic, associate professor of biology and physics at Saint Leo University. "The U.S. Congress should pay attention when the pope says the U.S. needs to do more to address climate change, as 75.8 percent of respondents (and 82.3 percent of Catholics) strongly or somewhat agree."

Political labels can be deceptive

Pope Francis, according to 28.6 percent of respondents, is too liberal for them. A smaller group, 19.7 percent, said Pope Francis is too conservative for their tastes.

"Because the pope is so popular, and because his Catholic message can be split between the two parties, there's something for everyone to latch on to. This leads to a situation where the pope-as-cheerleader is being tossed around like a football between the two parties," Orlando said. "Politicians who haven't made an allusion to the pope in their entire career are now mining the vast public record of Pope Francis for quotes. The hope is that they can bask in the pope's moral glow, and this poll seems to show that isn't a bad strategy." 

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