On Friday, Joe Biden is scheduled to meet Pope Francis for the first time as president. Many American Catholics have concerns about both men — particularly the Catholics whose religion is most important to them.
The president, a practicing Roman Catholic, has been under attack by some conservative Catholic leaders for continuing to receive communion while supporting abortion rights. Most Americans don’t mind, according to the latest Economist/YouGov Poll. But more American Catholics do — especially those for whom religion is very important.
Catholics were closely divided in the 2020 presidential election, and have soured on Biden since then. Some of Catholics’ responses about President Biden taking communion may be related to their negative opinion of the president.
More than half of Catholics in this poll (54%) have an unfavorable opinion of the president (and more this week identify as Republicans than as Democrats). First Lady Jill Biden is also seen negatively by more Catholics than the number who view her favorably. About two in five (39%) have favorable views about Jill Biden, while 44% have unfavorable views.
Catholics generally are pro-Pope. Twice as many have a favorable opinion of Pope Francis as have an unfavorable one, even though the Pontiff has been criticized by some Church leaders. However, two in five Catholics for whom religion is very important in their life say they have an unfavorable opinion of Pope Francis. Even more in this group say he is “too liberal.”
Among Americans overall, opinion of the Pope is mixed: 38% are favorable, while 33% are not. The Pope is not beloved by Republicans, among whom unfavorable views of Pope Francis outweigh favorable views by 43% to 31%. Far more Democrats view the Pope favorably: 57%, to 16% unfavorable. Just about half of American conservatives view the Pope unfavorably.
The public has not heard much about the coming Biden-Pope Francis meeting. Just 4% have heard a lot about it, while nearly three in four have heard nothing at all. Catholics are a little more likely to have heard about the visit. More than one-third of them have heard a little or a lot about it.
Methodology: The Economist survey was conducted by YouGov using a nationally representative sample of 1,500 U.S. adult citizens interviewed online between October 24 - 26, 2021. This sample was weighted according to gender, age, race, and education based on the 2018 American Community Survey, conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau, as well as 2016 and 2020 Presidential votes (or non-votes). Respondents were selected from YouGov’s opt-in panel to be representative of all U.S. citizens. The margin of error is approximately 3% for the overall sample.