Replacing The Pope: One In Five Catholics Hope For An American Pope

February 22, 2013, 2:00 PM GMT+0

(Week of 2/16/2013) Pope Benedict XVI’s surprise resignation last week left many Americans – including many Catholics – unsure about what it means for the future of the Roman Catholic Church. In the latest Economist/YouGov Poll, one in three Catholics aren’t sure what the resignation means for the Church. And a similar percentage thinks it will both help and hurt the Church.

But those who see an impact, both Catholic and non-Catholic, are more likely to think it will help the Church than hurt it.

Catholics generally like Pope Benedict: 56% of Catholics have a favorable opinion of him, though one in five is unfavorable. Non-Catholics tend to be closely divided in their assessment of a Pope who had to confront multiple scandals involving sexual abuse of children by some priests and long-term cover-ups of that abuse.

Dislike of Pope Benedict is particularly high among those who are not especially religious. Nearly half of those who say religion is not at all important to them have a negative view of the outgoing Pope; Just 16% of the non-religious are favorable.

Overall opinion of Benedict is more positive today than it was two years ago. Then slightly more Americans viewed him unfavorably than favorably.

Catholic favorability rose ten points – from 46% two years ago to 56% now.

One in five American Catholics would like to see Benedict replaced by an American. Another 11% hope the new Pontiff will come from Latin America. 9% hope he will came from Europe. But more than half of Catholics don’t have an opinion.

Economist/YouGov poll archives can be found here

Photo source: Press Association