Pope Francis Gets Catholic And Non-Catholic Approval

March 20, 2013, 3:00 PM GMT+0

(Week of 3/16/2013) Americans, both Catholic and non-Catholic, like Pope Francis, and the latest Economist/YouGov Poll suggests that his selection made Americans think better about his predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI, too. Francis gets higher favorable ratings from Americans than the former Pontiff does, but Americans feel better about Benedict in this week’s poll than they have in recent weeks.

Nearly three times as many Americans have favorable opinions about Francis as hold unfavorable ones, and the new Pontiff is liked by most groups, especially by Catholics.

And while 46% of Hispanics believe the selection of a new Pope from Latin America will help the Church, they definitely want Francis to change things. Most Catholics say they want to see changes in Church rules and policy, with 26% of Catholics wanting major changes. Only 12% of Catholics prefer Francis to make no changes in Church rules and policy.

Catholics have indicated in this poll and others that they would like the Church to allow priests to marry, to ordain women, and to sanction the use of artificial means of birth control and even abortion in some cases. More than a third even want the Church to approve same-sex marriage, though more Catholics oppose that change. Still, the desire for change in general comes from pretty much all groups of Catholics, even the most religious.

Although Francis is already more popular than Benedict was at the end of his Papal tenure, perhaps the public satisfaction with Francis’ selection has improved Benedict’s image as well. In this week’s poll, Americans look favorably on Benedict, too, and by a margin of eight points, with 33% favorable and 25% unfavorable. That is the best overall rating the American public has given to Benedict since he announced his retirement over a month ago.

Economist/YouGov poll archives can be found here

Photo source: Press Association