Pontiff’s Statement on Care of the Environment Broadly Accepted

Pope Francis continues to enjoy the high regard of the American public, according to the latest national survey from the Saint Leo University Polling Institute.

In an online survey conducted in March with about 1,000 adults, 68 percent of respondents said they have either a strongly favorable (29 percent) or somewhat favorable (39 percent) opinion of the pope. Eight percent said they have a somewhat unfavorable opinion, and 6 percent said their view is not at all favorable. A greater number, 18 percent, said they just don’t know or aren’t sure.

The survey base was 20 percent Catholic, 26 percent non-denominational Christian, 23 percent who identified specific Protestant denominations, and 21 percent with no affiliation or preference. Two percent of respondents identified themselves as Jewish, and 1 percent as Mormon or Latter Day Saints. The remaining balance were scattered among a variety of groups or simply identified themselves as “other.”

Among Catholic respondents, 84 percent reported a strongly favorable (48 percent) or somewhat favorable (36) opinion of Pope Francis. Only 5 percent reported a somewhat unfavorable opinion and none of the Catholics surveyed said they hold an unfavorable opinion. Eleven percent said they don’t know or are not sure.

The findings are very similar to results from the December 2014 quarterly survey by the Saint Leo University Polling Institute.

Pope Francis will visit three cities in the United States in September: New York, Philadelphia, and Washington, DC, where he will speak to a joint session of Congress. In June or July, he is expected to issue a highly anticipated encyclical (letter) on Catholicism and ecology.

The March survey also asked respondents whether they agree with a widely reported statement Pope Francis made during a Mass in February, when he asserted that protecting the environment is the responsibility of all Christians.

A majority of the respondents, 77 percent, said they either strongly agree (38 percent) or somewhat agree (39 percent) with Pope Francis on that point. A population of 9 percent said they somewhat disagree, and 7 percent indicated strong disagreement, for a combined population of 16 percent at some level of disagreement. Another 7 percent said they don’t know or are not sure.

Among the 202 Catholics who answered the survey, 86 percent said they either agree strongly with the pope (47 percent) or somewhat agree (39 percent). Six percent said they somewhat disagree, 3 percent said they strongly disagree, for a combined population of 9 percent, while 5 percent said they don’t know or are not sure.

The response of the 797 non-Catholics surveyed almost exactly mirrored the overall population, with 75 percent who said they agree either strongly or somewhat with Pope Francis, and 17 percent saying they disagree either somewhat or strongly. Seven percent said they don’t know or are not sure.

About the Saint Leo University Polling Institute/Methodology

This Saint Leo University poll of 1,016 people nationally (809 likely voters) was conducted between March 15 and March 19, 2015. The Saint Leo University Polling Institute conducts its surveys using cutting-edge online methodology, which is rapidly transforming the field of survey research. The sample is drawn from large online panels, which allows for random selections that reflect accurate cross sections of all demographic groups. Online methodology has the additional advantage of allowing participants to respond to the survey at a time, place, and speed convenient to them, which may result in more thoughtful answers. The Saint Leo University Polling Institute develops the questionnaires, administers the surveys, and conducts analysis of the results. Panel participants typically receive a token incentive – usually $1 deposited into an iTunes or Amazon account – for their participation.

About Saint Leo University

Saint Leo University is a regionally accredited, liberal-arts-based institution known for an inclusive Catholic heritage, enduring values, and capacity for innovation. The school was chartered in 1889 by Catholic Benedictine monks in rural Pasco County, FL, making Saint Leo the first Catholic college in the state. Over its more than 125-year history, Saint Leo has provided access to education to people of all faiths, emphasizing the Benedictine philosophy of balanced growth of mind, body, and spirit.

Today the university welcomes learners from all generations and backgrounds, from civilian occupations and the armed forces, and from across the country and more than 60 nations around the world. Saint Leo’s 16,000 undergraduate and graduate students may elect to study at the beautiful University Campus in Florida, at more than 40 teaching locations in seven states, or online from other locations. The university’s degree programs range from the associate to the doctorate. Throughout these rich offerings, Saint Leo develops principled leaders for a challenging world.

Saint Leo University boasts more than 70,000 alumni in all 50 states, Washington, DC, three U.S. territories, and 70 countries.

Media Contacts: Kim Payne, staff writer and media coordinator, at kim.payne@saintleo.edu or (352) 588-7233/(717) 798-1508 or Jo-Ann Johnston, academic communications manager, at jo-ann.johnston@saintleo.edu or (352) 588-8237/(352)467-0843.