Pope Benedict's Popularity Sinks After He Leaves Office

March 06, 2013, 5:00 PM GMT+0

(Week of 3/2/2013) Americans frequently feel more kindly about leaders after they leave office than while they serve. But that’s not the case with Pope Benedict XVI, whose popularity in the Economist/YouGov Poll has declined each week since he made the announcement that he would resign his office.

In this week’s poll, more Americans say they have an unfavorable view of the former Pontiff than hold a favorable view. Last week, opinion was evenly divided. And two weeks ago, just after Benedict announced he would retire, opinion was more favorable than not.

This figure shows results among those with an opinion each week, excluding those who answer "not sure."

Since Benedict’s announcement, there have been news stories about scandals, both financial and sexual, involving Catholic clergy, and at least one Cardinal will not participate in the Conclave to select the next Pope because of those allegations. Others who have been accused of ignoring or covering up scandals will attend.

American Catholic opinion, while still positive, has shifted, too. And much of the country’s overall shift this week is due to their opinion changing. Unfavorable opinions of Pope Benedict among Catholics have risen ten points just in the last week.

This figure shows results among Catholics with an opinion each week, excluding those who answer "not sure."

Many Catholics say it doesn’t matter which part of the world the next Pontiff comes from (though 20% would like him to be American). And they tend to see the Pope’s resignation as a mixed blessing for the Church. Only 6% of Catholics say it will hurt the Church; 25% say it will help the Church.