Wednesday, 19 September 2018

Pope's Popularity Takes a Tumble

Pope Francis Favorability Down Sharply in U.S. | Gallop.

Although Pope Francis still maintains a positive approval rating amongst Americans, the 53% approval recorded by Gallop between 4-12 September this year masks what amounts to a major shift in perception of his 'approvability' by non-Catholic Americans.

Amongst this group his approval has fallen 18 percentage points in the month since the publication of the Pennsylvania Grand Jury report, from 63% (and from a high of 72% recorded in February 2014), to the present low of 45%.

What is holding up the figure for all Americans is the opinion of Catholic Americans who remain unswerving in their approval of the Pope.

This almost certainly reflects the special status of a pope in the Catholic Church as a man reputedly in personal contact with God whose utterances amount to divine revelation and who can thus do no wrong. Although remaining substantially unchanged at 79% by the Pennsylvania revelations, even amongst this group, approval has fallen 10 percentage points since February 2014 when it stood at almost 89%.

These figures were obtained by asking respondents "As I read each name, please say if you have a favorable or unfavorable opinion of that person -- or if you have never heard of them." Perhaps surprisingly, 8% of respondents said they had never heard of Pope Francis and 12% had no opinion. The percentage who disapproved stood at 27%, giving Pope Francis a 2:1 lead in approval vs. disapproval. This figure however is sharply down from the massive 8.5:1 lead he had in February 2014 when only 9% of Americans viewed him unfavourably.

Gallop regards this decline as on a par with the 'precipitous' decline in popularity for Pope John Paul II in 2002 when sexual abuse scandals began to emerge. His popularity fell from 86% in 1998 to 61%. Despite this, Pope Francis still remains more popular that his predecessor, Pope Benedict XIV who, shortly before he resigned was viewed favourably by just 35% of Americans while 45% disapproved of him.

It remains to be seen whether this decline in Pope Francis' approval, and thus his authority in the USA, will decline further if the major investigations now underway in New Jersey and other states shows that Pennsylvania was typical of the USA in general and not just a local anomaly, or whether Americans have already assumed it was typical and have factored this into their opinions of the Pope.

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