Pope Francis had positive impact on American views of Catholic Church, survey shows

(Photo: House Office of Photography)Pope Franics addressed the U.S. Congress for the first time on Sept. 24, 2014 where he quuestioned international arms trading.

Pope Francis generated goodwill toward the Roman Catholic Church among many people across the political and religious spectrum in his recent visit to the United States giving the church a shot in the arm, a new Pew Research Center survey finds.

"Four times as many U.S. adults say their opinion of the Catholic Church is better now because of Pope Francis as people who say their impression has gotten worse," said Greg Smith, associate director of research and co-author of the report.

Both Catholics and non-Catholics are more likely to say that Francis has had a positive rather than negative impact on their view of the church, although the number of Catholics expressing a favourable view of the Pope.

Roughly two-thirds of non-Catholics (65 per cent) now express a favorable view of Pope Francis. This is comparable with February (when 64 per cent of non-Catholics expressed a favorable opinion of the Pope as he approached the two-year mark of his papacy) and up 7 percentage points since June.

Eight-in-ten Catholics surveyed (81 per cent) now say they have a favorable view of Pope Francis after his visit to Washington DC, New York and Philadelphia in September.

By comparison, 86 per cent of Catholics expressed a favorable viw of Pope Francis in June, and fully nine-in-ten Catholics (90 per cent) expressed a favorable view of the pontiff in February.

Pope Francis' favorability rating among U.S. Catholics is now roughly equivalent to the rating Catholics gave Pope Benedict XVI following his visit to the country in April 2008.

Positive views are present also for Americans in both major political parties, the Democrats and the Republicans, across the ideological spectrum.

But improved views of the Catholic Church are especially apparent among self-identified liberals and moderates as well as among Democrats.

Ideological liberals and moderates, along with Democrats, are especially likely to say Francis has given them a more positive view of the Catholic Church.

At the same time, the Pope's own favorability rating remains about where it was in early 2015. And most Americans say their view of the Catholic Church has not changed because of Pope Francis.

Nearly four-in-ten liberals (39 per cent), for instance, say they have a more positive view of the Catholic Church because of Pope Francis, dwarfing the 4 per cent who say they have a more negative view of the church by a 10-to-1 margin.

And among ideological moderates, 31 percent say their view of the Catholic Church has improved because of the Pope, while 5 per cent say their view of the church has become more negative, a 6-to-1 ratio.

Among conservatives, by contrast, the ratio of those with a more positive view of the church (22 per cent) to those with a more negative view (10 per cent) is closer to 2-to-1.

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