ST. LEO, FL – Americans’ favorable view of Pope Francis is holding steady, according to surveys by the Saint Leo University Polling Institute (https://polls.saintleo.edu), with 55.6 percent saying they hold a strongly favorable or somewhat favorable view of the pontiff.
In October 2020, 56.4 percent of poll respondents held favorable opinions of Pope Francis and in February 2020, his approval rating was at 52.2 percent.
As part of a Catholic Benedictine university, the polling institute at Saint Leo University in Florida regularly covers Americans’ attitudes concerning Pope Francis and the Catholic Church in America.
The 2021 poll was conducted online February 7-14, among 1,000 total respondents nationally. The resulting margin of error for the results is 3.0 percentage points in either direction. The institute completed a parallel study during the same time period in Florida among 500 respondents, and the resulting margin of error is 4.5 percentage points in either direction.
Among Catholics nationally, the pope’s favorable opinion rating is 79.3 percent, which is unchanged from 79.9 percent from polling in October 2020. polling in October 2020. Among the 1,000 respondents, Saint Leo polled 271 Catholics.
In Florida, where the Saint Leo University Polling Institute is based, Pope Francis holds a 56.0 percent favorability rating among poll respondents, which is down slightly from 57.2 percent in October 2020.
“Pope Francis’ favorability rating is practically the same now as it was in our October 2020 poll, both overall and especially among Catholics,” said Dr. Marc Pugliese, associate professor of religion and theology and associate dean of the College of Arts and Sciences. “Since then the pope has issued an encyclical, written an op-ed for The New York Times, and been the subject of a popular documentary.”
The pope released his encyclical Fratelli tutti on global fraternity and social friendship, which Pugliese notes is a synopsis of his previous statements on human dignity and rights, capital punishment, economics, war and peace, and interreligious relations, with added discussion of the global pandemic and why he considers the response to be a global failure.
“Although the encyclical addresses the rights and dignity of women it was met with criticisms both for its use of the term ‘brotherhood’ [Fratelli tutti literally means ‘all brothers’] and for not going far enough on this topic,” Pugliese said. “There was also debate within U.S. Catholic circles about the pope’s statement on the inadmissibility of capital punishment, an affirmation of a change he introduced into the Catechism of the Catholic Church in 2018.”
The documentary Francesco was released in late October 2020, and a remark made by Pope Francis in 2019 that seemingly endorsed same-sex civil unions created controversy.
“It seems that all of this publicity and controversy—both of which are nothing new for Pope Francis—have not been so new and different from the past that they have significantly altered the public opinion of the pope in general, and even among Catholics,” Pugliese said.
“The differences in the pope’s favorability ratings between those who self-identify as Republicans (45.6 percent) and conservative (50.6 percent) on the one hand, and those who self-identify as Democrats (68.4 percent) and liberal (63.5 percent) corresponds to the widespread perception that Pope Francis is liberal or progressive Pope. His high favorability among Catholics is probably an indication that U.S. Catholics across the political spectrum find much about the pope that resonates with them.”
Opinions on the Catholic Church
Saint Leo University also surveyed respondents about their opinions of the Catholic Church in the United States. Overall favorable opinion (strongly and somewhat) of the Catholic Church in is 46.6 percent, down slightly from 48.1 percent in October 2020. The 2021 approval rating is higher than findings from previous polls, 43.6 percent in February 2020 and 42 percent in November 2019.
Among Catholics nationally, the favorable opinion (strongly and somewhat) is 81.2 percent, which is an increase from the October 2020 poll in which 76.4 percent of Catholics say they hold a favorable view of the Catholic Church.
In Florida, the favorable opinion of the Catholic Church is 46.2 percent, which is down slightly from 49.2 percent in October 2020.
About the Poll
METHODOLOGY: This national survey was conducted from February 7, 2021, through February 14, 2021, among a base of 1,000 respondents nationally, using an online instrument. The national sample has an associated margin of error of +/- 3.0 percent at a 95 percent confidence for questions asked of all 1,000 respondents.
The statewide survey was also conducted from February 7, 2021, through February 14, 2021, among a base of 500 respondents, using an online instrument. The sample has an associated margin of error of +/- 4.5 percent at a 95 percent confidence for questions asked of all 500 respondents.
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 allow 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 that is 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.
The Saint Leo University Polling Institute survey results about national and Florida politics, public policy issues, Pope Francis’ popularity, and other topics, can also be found here: http://polls.saintleo.edu. You can also follow the institute on Twitter @saintleopolls.
Mary McCoy, Saint Leo University, University Writer & Media Relations, firstname.lastname@example.org, (352) 588-7118 or cell (813) 610-8416.
Jo-Ann Johnston, Saint Leo University, University Communications email@example.com or (352) 467-0843 (cell/text).
About Saint Leo University
Saint Leo University is one of the largest Catholic universities in the nation, offering 57 undergraduate and graduate-level degree programs to more than 18,200 students each year. Founded in 1889 by Benedictine monks, the private, nonprofit university is known for providing a values-based education to learners of all backgrounds and ages in the liberal arts tradition. Saint Leo is regionally accredited and offers a residential campus in the Tampa Bay region of Florida, 16 education centers in five states, and an online program for students anywhere. The university is home to more than 98,000 alumni. Learn more at saintleo.edu.