27 July 2015, The Tablet

Francis falls out of favour with one-fifth of American Catholics

Pope Francis' favourability rating among American Catholics has dropped almost one-fifth in a little over a year, according to a Gallup poll published two months ahead of his visit to New York, Philadelphia and Washington DC.

In 2014, 89 per cent of US Catholics said they viewed him favourably. According to a poll published last week, that figure stands at 71 per cent – a drop of almost 20 per cent, or one-fifth, of the country’s Catholics.

Similarly the percentage of other Christians who rate Francis favourably has dropped from 73 per cent to 52 per cent.

Among the US population as a whole, the trend has been broadly similar, Francis’ popularity falling to roughly the level it was a month after he was elected. It now stands at 59 per cent, down from 76 per cent in early 2014, and one point higher than the 58 per cent at which it stood in April 2013.

In addition, one-sixth of Americans, 16 per cent, said they had an unfavourable opinion of Francis – an increase from only 9 per cent in February 2014.

Also increased was the proportion of respondents who said they had never heard of him or had no opinion of him – from 16 per cent to 25 per cent. “Now removed from the plaudits of 2013 and the high ratings of 2014, it appears that fewer Americans know enough about the Pope to be able to rate him,” Gallup’s analysis suggested.

When respondents are categorised by political affiliation, Francis’ fall in popularity is sharpest among conservatives, (27 per cent), then liberals (14 per cent), and moderates (8 per cent).

Between the first and second polls Pope Francis was named Time Magazine’s Person of the Year and was lauded in the US press for calling for greater acceptance of gay and lesbian Catholics in the Church.

Between the poll of 1,009 adults carried out this month, and the previous one, Francis has received substantial criticism from right-wing commentators for denouncing "the idolatry of money", continuing to criticise material inequality, and linking climate change to human activity.

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