Papal Approval Rating 61% Among All Americans; 82% with Catholics

Pope Francis’s approval rating has climbed to 61 percent among all Americans, and 82 percent among American Catholics, according to a new poll by the Saint Leo University Polling Institute.

Pope Francis, the first Jesuit pontiff, was just named Time magazine’s Person of the Year for 2013 during the magazine’s annual reveal on the TODAY show on Wednesday morning.

Michael Anthony Novak, Saint Leo University assistant professor of theology and religion, said that most American presidents would love to have the papal approval rating reflected in the Saint Leo University Polling Institute results.

Dr. Novak said he thinks the public’s apparent fondness for Pope Francis has to do with his open and accessible style. “Pope Francis just seems to have the populist touch.” Past Popes came up through a different tradition within the centuries-old Catholic Church, Dr. Novak added, a tradition that tended to convey a more formal style. With Pope Francis and his decision, for instance, not to live in the papal apartment, “You see a guy who refuses to be isolated.”

When asked whether they agree with Pope Francis’s emphasis on outreach, social justice, and church ministry over issues such as abortion, contraception, and sexual behavior, 65 percent of Americans say they agree and just 14 percent disagree. Among Catholics, 78 percent say they agree with the Pope’s emphasis while 9 percent disagreed.

The data comes from the inaugural national survey conducted by the Saint Leo University Polling Institute. The online survey of 1,002 adults was conducted between December 1 and 6 and has a margin of error of about 3 percent.