Pope Francis will visit the United States in September to address a joint session of Congress, and to greet thousands of Americans at events planned for Philadelphia. According to a new opinion poll, the first pope from the New World continues to be popular among Catholics and fellow Americans. The poll indicates that most Americans rate Pope Francis highly as a spiritual leader, and as someone who cares about people like them, for his work on interfaith relations, and as a world leader. The survey was begun on April 6 and ended on April 14.

 "On his trip to the United States, not only will Pope Francis get to know the American people, but the American people will also get to know him," said Carl Anderson of the Knights of Columbus. "The pope is popular among Americans, and especially among Catholics, and there is a hunger for his message, with the vast majority of Americans understanding that he brings message for all of us."

Fifty-eight percent of Americans have a favorable or very favorable view of the pope, according to the poll, which is identical to the favorability rating registered for Pope Benedict XVI just before his 2008 visit to the U.S. Only 10 percent have an unfavorable view of Pope Francis.  Thirty-two percent were unsure of their opinion, or had heard about him. Catholics have a more favorable view of Pope Francis:  77 percent of all Catholics, and 83 percent of practicing Catholics, view him favorably or very favorably. The poll was conducted jointly by the Knights of Columbus and Marist University.

According to a similar survey, conducted by the Pew Research Center in June, found that 86 percent of Catholics in the United States have a favorable opinion of the pontiff. Even so, some conservative Catholics view his positions and statements with growing alarm, according to a Gallup poll and interviews with experts. Released in July, a Gallup poll showed that Pope Francis has lose support among conservative Catholics. His favorable rating among them fell from 72 percent last year to 45 percent in July. His favorable rating among all Catholics dropped from 89 percent to 71 percent. According to Gallup, the decline of support among conservative Catholics “may be attributable to the pope’s denouncing of ‘the idolatry of money’ and linking climate change partially to human activity, along with his passionate focus on income inequality — all issues that are at odds with many conservatives’ beliefs.” 

Nonetheless, 74 percent of Americans know little or nothing about the Pope’s coming visit, according to the Knights/Marist poll. Among Catholics, the survey found that 65 percent of Catholics, and 55 percent  practical Catholics were equally unaware.

Curiously, 63 percent of Americans report that they rarely or never follow news stories about Pope Francis. For practicing Catholics, two-thirds say they follow news stories about the Pope (67 percent), as is true for 60 percent of Catholics overall.

Of the Americans polled, 72 percent believe that Pope Francis is bearing a message for the whole country. Among practicing Catholics, that figure reaches 90 percent. Among Catholics as a whole, that figure is 88 percent.

The survey also found that 56 percent of Americans - and 60 percent of practicing Catholics - think news about Pope Francis is shaped by reporters' own points of view. Only about one third of each group (35 percent) rates news stories about the pope as "mostly accurate." Multiple news sources, such as: CNN, New York Times, FOX News, the Wall Street Journal, as well as Catholic and local news outlets are all rated as trusted by about four in 10 Americans to deliver accurate news about Pope Francis (between 42 and 39 percent - all within the margin of error). Among Catholics, the numbers change drastically. By contrast, 69 percent of practical Catholics trust Catholic media outlets’ reports on Pope Francis' visit

Among Americans, the Catholic Church is viewed favorably by 66 percent of Americans, including 95 percent of practicing Catholics and 90 percent of non-practicing Catholics. Similar numbers say the Catholic Church contributes to people and communities in the United States: 67 percent of Americans, 75 percent of non-practicing Catholics, and 87 percent of practicing Catholics.

Additional results are based on a survey of 3,002 adults and 702 Catholic Americans conducted in English or Spanish by telephone.

  

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Spero News writer Martin Barillas is a former US diplomat, who also worked as a democracy advocate and election observer in Latin America. His first novel 'Shaken Earth', is available at Amazon.

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