ROME — Five years into his papacy, Francis continues to enjoy enviously high polling numbers of public support, with new survey results showing that over 84 percent of American Catholics approve of him.
According to new data from Saint Leo University Polling Institute, which conducts regular online polling on the pontiff, Francis’s overall approval rating among Americans has increased to 68.7 percent, up from 65.6 percent in February and 62.9 percent in November 2017.
Dr. Marc Pugliese, associate professor of religion and theology at Saint Leo University, attributes the increase to the possibility of the amount of media attention given to Francis around the time of the five year anniversary of his election to office, most notably the recently released Wim Wenders’ documentary, Pope Francis – A Man of His Word, related coverage on CBS’s 60 Minutes broadcast, and a new CNN special on the papacy.
“In addition to drawing attention to the papacy in general, whenever the episodes mentioned Pope Francis they always did so positively,” said Pugliese.
Of the notable areas in which he was evaluated, Francis’s approval rating for his handling of clerical sexual abuse cases has improved, up to 44.3 percent, compared to 40.5 percent in February and 40.6 percent in November 2017.
These results come just one month after Francis issued an apology to the Catholic Church in Chile where he admitted his own failures in responding to complaints of abuse and has vowed total reform in the country.
Also, somewhat surprisingly, Francis’s approval rating has increased among those self-identifying as Republican or conservative and have significantly dipped among those identifying as a Democrat and liberal.
Among conservative respondents, 64.7 percent expressed approval, compared to 62.1 percent in February. Meanwhile, 66.7 percent of Republican respondents expressed approval, up from 63 percent in February.
Conversely, liberal respondents expressed a 65.1 percent approval, down from 77.3 percent in February, and among democrats, Francis is down to 71.1 percent in May, from 76.3 percent in February.
Saint Leo University polled 1,000 adults proportional to state population from May 25-28, with a +/- 3.0 percent margin of error at a 95 percent confidence level.