December 11, 2013

Pope Francis’ big year


Pope Francis began this year as Jorge Mario Bergoglio, an Argentine archbishop. He finishes it as Time magazine’s Person of the Year, beating out contenders such as Edward Snowden after a whirlwind of activity that included news-making comments about homosexuality and other social issues, as well as an apostolic exhortation that focused on caring for the poor and inveighed against the “idolatry of money.”

Polls show Francis to be highly popular, especially among U.S. Catholics. A Washington Post-ABC poll, released today, finds that 92% of American Catholics have a favorable impression of him, including 63% who have a “strongly favorable” view. Similarly, 85% of Catholics in the United States say they approve of the direction in which Francis is leading the Catholic Church, including 54% who strongly approve.

More broadly, the Post-ABC poll finds that 69% of all U.S. adults (including non-Catholics) have a favorable impression of Francis. And a Wall Street Journal-NBC News poll, also released today, shows that 57% of Americans say they have “positive” feelings toward the pope, up from 35% in July. By comparison, just 42% of the poll’s respondents express positive feelings toward Barack Obama.

Though Francis now tops the most-talked about topics list on Facebook, not all the comments about him on social media and in the mainstream press are positive. Some conservative Catholics, for example, have expressed general concerns about his papacy, and some other Catholics have questioned his response to the clergy sex abuse scandal. The church announced a new commission on the scandal last week.

And despite Pope Francis’ popularity, there’s no evidence in Pew Research data that he has sparked a discernible increase in the number of self-identifying Catholics or those who report attending Mass at least once a week.

Our most recent poll on views of the pope was conducted in September, when eight-in-ten U.S. Catholics (79%) said they viewed Francis favorably, about the same as shortly after his election in March. That’s similar to the high-water mark for his immediate predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI, who was seen favorably by 83% of American Catholics in April 2008. By comparison, Pope John Paul II surpassed the 90% favorability mark in multiple polls among U.S. Catholics in the 1980s and 1990s.

The new Post-ABC poll finds Francis to be more popular than Benedict was: Francis gets a 92% favorability rating among U.S. Catholics in that poll, compared with 76% who had a favorable impression of Benedict in February 2013 and 74% who viewed Benedict favorably in April 2008.

Pope John Paul II – who was Time’s Man of the Year in 1994 – was seen favorably by 87% of American Catholics a few weeks before his death in 2005, his highest rating in Post-ABC polls. Given the poll’s margin of error, that is effectively a statistical tie with Francis’ 92% rating today.

  1. Photo of Michael Lipka

    is a senior editor focusing on religion at Pew Research Center.


  1. Bob A4 years ago

    For webmaster of Pew Research –> small print of far right-hand column is most difficult to read without zooming it our 200% to 400%.

  2. Brian Ahlstrom4 years ago

    Well begun is half done.
    Francis is leading the Church by example. He preaches a preferential option for the poor, and lives a modest life, far from the pomp of the Curia.
    He makes himself approachable (or innately has the common touch), and no one can resist unconditional love.
    Benedict gave many the impression of being true to the letter of the Law, Francis clearly breathes the spirit of the Law: Love God with your whole heart and mind, and love your neighbor asa yourself.

  3. Joy Job Thottukadavil Palluruthy4 years ago

    Most beloved Francis,
    We know you are not doing anything for your name and fame, but for the higher glory of God through the betterment of all human beings.
    Be sure these people, now running with awards for you itself would take lead to crucify you latter, if you stick on your policy.
    It is then you have to express your might and sincerity.
    Wish you the best.

  4. Ray Janisch4 years ago

    Since when is Christianity a popularity contest?
    Know Christ and Him Crucified walk in the Spirit and do not fulfull the lust of the carnal man.
    Be pleasing to God, He will do the rest.

  5. Edd Doerr4 years ago

    Pope Francis has gotten off to a good start, and is certainly to be commended for his criticism of reaganomics. But more needs to be done. Francis should back the church away from its wrong-headed condemnation of contraception. After all, human overpopulation is a major factor in fueling climate change, CO2 buildup, resource depletion, environmental degradation, deforestation, desertification, fresh water shortages, and increasing sociopolitical instability and violence. Universal access to contraceptives and decriminalizing abortion would help combat global warming while enhancing women’s rights and health, making the world safer for children, and reducing poverty. — Edd Doerr (

    1. Every human has equal right to live, and every life is worth more than resources.4 years ago

      There is no such thing as human overpopulation.

      Some people have been allowed to have control of our world, and make it a world of corruption, greed, and exploitation of human beings, for companies and rich people, to increase their own money and power. The problems are this greed and neglect of human life. And treating human life as something to throw away, so that you can benefit by taking the resources, that are given by God to be shared to all people, including those lives who are disposed of by the cruel society.

      The world can support a number of people which we have not yet seen a limit to, and which is likely to be unlimited as there has always been sufficient resources for humans before, and they develop in a way which always finds more. As long as we live in a way where human life is put first, instead of money and instead of treating humans beings like objects which exist only to add production and wealth for the rich, and to be killed if they dont make wealth.

      Overpopulation is just an ideology said by those humans who don’t value other’s lives and seek to justify the killing of others, instead of seeking to care for eachother, and help eachother.

      Murder is not the way to solve poverty. There are plenty of every kind of resource, if people live in a way that respects life, and human dignity, and live with fraternity instead of seeing others as an enemy or a competitor, to either kill or exploit for your own gain.

      All problems are solved, by stopping to be selfish and thinking your life and your wellbeing is more important, than the life of the unwanted or unloved humans, who you think you can dispose of as if they are not human and have no value or right to live.

      If you value your own life and wouldn’t like your own life to be considered disposable by another person when you are weak and in need of care from your fellow humans. Then we must stop promoting killing of human beings in abortion, or killing of elderly, and weak, and unwanted, and unloved. And start caring about the life of every human being, more than money, and your lifestyle of selfishness.

      Contraception is not killing a life. Abortion, and euthanasia are killing lives.

      And yet contraception is always tied to abortion, whenever it is promoted. For this reason contraception when used in an organised way by huge companies with millions or billions of dollars of funding around the world, as just a foot in the door for promoting abortion, is not something positive. Because the killing is the agenda which is being pushed most hard, because it is not really about population numbers not being sustainable in the world, but it is about killing those who are not wanted by the rich who are pouring their money into promoting and advancing this killing in nearly all countries.

      Killing for the purpose of population control, is not because overpopulation will ever happen. But because certain groups and classes of people, are wanted to be killed, by other groups and classes of people.

      Humans want to murder other humans. That is the problem of the world. And the solution is to stop these rich companies and individuals and pressure groups, from being able to affect laws in countries, and stop governments promoting legalisation and normalisation of killing human beings. When it is against the fundamental human right to life for every human, from creation at conception until natural death.

  6. Fr. Warren J. Savage4 years ago

    I strongly encourage people of all faith traditions and non-believers to reflectively read Pope Francis’ Apostolic Exhortation, Evangelii Guadium. This document is a great introduction to the heart, mind, and soul of a humble man who desires to make a difference in the world with the gospel. Perhaps people will be inspired to sit down and have a serious, civil dialogue on some of the themes articulated in the exhortation.