Pope Francis still enjoys high levels of support from the Catholic community as a whole, but his support from Catholic Republicans is waning, according to a newly released report from the Pew Research Center.
The survey was conducted between January 10 and 15, among 1,503 adults, 316 of whom identified as Catholic. In a write up of the survey, Pew notes that “increasing shares of Catholic Republicans” view Francis unfavorably, criticizing him for being “too liberal and naïve.”
Still, 84 percent of American Catholics hold a positive view of the Holy Father, a figure almost identical to that taken at the end of his first year as Pontiff. Around nine in 10 U.S. Catholics describe Pope Francis as “compassionate” and “humble.”
But not everyone is happy with Pope Francis, particular those on the conservative end of the political spectrum.
“The share of American Catholics who say Pope Francis is “too liberal” has jumped 15 percentage points between 2015 and today, from 19% to 34%. And about a quarter of U.S. Catholics (24%) now say he is naïve, up from 15% in 2015,” Pew notes. “Over the same period, the share of American Catholics who give Pope Francis “excellent” or “good” marks for his handling of the sex abuse scandal dropped from 55% to 45%.”
Plus, the number of Republican and Republican-leaning Catholics asserting that Pope Francis is “too liberal” has more than doubled since 2015 (jumping from 23 percent to 55 percent).
Despite Democrats and Republicans viewing Pope Francis in a similar manner at the start of his tenure as Pope, his favorability rating is now 10 points higher among Catholic Democrats (89 percent) than among Catholic Republicans (79 percent).
Francis himself, however, has had little effect on the overall percentage of those who practice Catholicism.
“While Francis is quite popular with Americans overall, analysis of Pew Research Center surveys conducted since he became pope finds no evidence of a rise in the share of Americans who identify as Catholic (22% in 2012, 20% in 2017), and no indication of a Francis-inspired resurgence in Mass attendance.”
The report notes that, if anything, Mass attendance has decreased slightly.
“In surveys conducted in 2017, 38% of Catholic respondents say they attend Mass weekly. By comparison, in the year before Francis became pope, 41% of U.S. Catholics reported attending Mass weekly,” Pew notes.