Catholics under the age of 30 are the biggest supporters of Pope Francis in Britain, according to a new report.
Carried out in October and November 2019, the new poll saw the Pope rated on ten different issues, from upholding catholic teaching to addressing the needs of the poor, by nearly 2,000 self-identified Catholics.
The survey was designed by Professor Stephen Bullivant, director of the Benedict XVI Centre for Religion and Society at St Mary's university, Twickenham, and Dr Ben Clements, associate professor at the University of Leicester, as part of their "Roman Catholics in Britain: Faith, Society and Politics" project. Bullivant and Clements intend to release a longer report this summer that focuses on the social and moral attitudes of British Catholics, which will be the first of its kind in the UK.
Professor Bullivant told The Tablet that he was struck by how consistent the results were for Pope Francis, who is popular amongst practising and non-practising Catholics, and especially well-liked by the young.
The cohort in the poll that most strongly approves of the Pope is young, Mass-going catholics, over three-quarters of whom gave the pope a “good” or “excellent” rating in seven out of the ten questions participants were asked. In nine out of ten areas, under-30s Catholics who attend mass at least weekly were the demographic that was most enthusiastic about Pope Francis.
Younger Catholics who don’t attend Mass also gave the Pope a significantly higher approval rate than their older counterparts. Catholics who attend Mass at least weekly also approve of Francis much more than Catholics who don’t, suggesting that that approval of Francis correlates strongly with both mass attendance and youth.
Fewer than 50 per cent of all Catholics, however, think the Pope is doing either an "excellent" or "Good" job on four issues: Vatican reform, the sex abuse crisis, addressing the needs and concerns of women and environmental issues.
Even on these questions, the Pope consistently receives a higher approval rating from younger Catholics, with nearly 80 per cent of young, Mass-attending catholics regarding his record on women and the environment as “good” or “excellent”.
Bullivant suggested that the high levels of interest in and support for the Pope amongst young Catholics also reflected a decline in a “cultural catholicism” more prevalent amongst older participants. “The number of people answering ‘don’t know’ to survey questions shrinks significantly with younger people, and especially with young people who go to mass regularly.”
He said: “I think this indicates that the disengaged catholicism more prevalent in older generations isn’t common with young people. If you’re going to Mass as a young person, it’s because you really want to be there.”