Pope Francis more popular than world leaders like Obama and Merkel, poll finds

(Photo: REUTERS / Alessandro Bianchi)Pope Francis waves as he leads his Wednesday general audience at the Paul VI hall at the Vatican August 20, 2014.

Pope Francis is more popular than any political world leader during the fourth year of his papacy, an opinion poll indicates.

The poll by WIN/Gallup International indicates that Roman Catholics and Jews have the most favourable opinion of the Pope.

"Pope Francis is a leader who transcends his own religion," said, Jean-Marc Leger, president of WIN/Gallup International.

"Our study shows that an ample majority of citizens of the world, of different religious affiliations and across regions, have a favourable image of the Pope."

The Pope was most popular with Roman Catholics, of whom 85 percent said they had a favourable opinion of him, and among Jews polled, the figure was 65 percent..

More than half of the world's Protestants and even the majority of atheists and agnostics view him favourably, the survey released March 23 found, the BBC reported.

About 1,000 people in 64 countries were asked: "Irrespective of your own religion, do you have a very favourable, somewhat favourable, somewhat unfavourable or very unfavourable opinion of Pope Francis?"

The Pope's net score - the difference between favorable and unfavorable opinions - was calculated by the polling organization as 41.

This puts rates him highest in terms of world leaders' popularity, ahead of U.S. President Barack Obama on 30 and German Chancellor Angela Merkel on 13, reported .

The Pope is some way ahead of Russian President Vladimir Putin, who although shown to be popular in his own country, lies bottom of the pile on -10.

The key findings of the poll:

● 54 percent of the world´s population has a favourable opinion of Pope Francis, against 12% who hold an unfavourable opinion and 34% that do not know how to evaluate the Pope.

● The regions where the positive image of the Pope is the highest are Latin America, North America and the European Union.

● Among the 64 countries, the Pope´s image is highest in Portugal, the Philippines, his native Argentina and Italy.

● Positive opinions of Pope's Francis increases with age of respondents

There were only three countries recording more negative opinions than positive ones - Turkey, Tunisia and Algeria - while 87 percent of respondents in Azerbaijan said they did not know who the Pope is.

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