December 24th, 2013
06:00 AM ET

CNN Poll: Pope's approval rating sky-high

By Daniel Burke, CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor
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(CNN) - As Pope Francis prepares to celebrate his first Christmas at the Vatican, Americans' opinions of the pontiff appear to be as high as the dome on St. Peter's Basilica, according to a new survey.

A CNN/ORC International poll released Tuesday found that 88% of American Catholics approve of how Francis is handling his role as head of the 1.2 billion-member church.

The popular pontiff has also made a positive impression among Americans in general: Nearly three in four view Francis favorably.  The new survey suggests that the Pope is arguably the most well-regarded religious figure among the American public today, said CNN Polling Director Keating Holland.

Nine months into his papacy, the Argentine-born Francis has captured attention with crowd-pleasing acts of compassion, from embracing a severely disfigured man, to washing the feet of juvenile delinquents, to hosting homeless men at his birthday Mass this month.

The Pope has also shown a common touch rare for such a lofty religious leader. He has eschewed the trappings of the papacy in favor of humbler digs, simpler vestments and a cheaper car. He worked as a bar bouncer and a janitor before he was a priest, and is not shy about telling people.

Pope: I was once a bar bouncer

According to one study, Pope Francis was the most talked about person on the Internet this year, and even atheists have professed appreciation for the 77-year-old pontiff.

The breadth of Francis' popularity was on display at American newsstands this month: he was named person of the year by both Time magazine and The Advocate, a gay and lesbian publication.

"While 2013 will be remembered for the work of hundreds in advancing marriage equality, it will also be remembered for the example of one man," The Advocate said. In remarks that rippled across the globe, Pope Francis said in July, "If someone is gay and he searches for the Lord and has good will, who am I to judge?

Pope Francis on gays: 'Who am I to judge?'

While the Pope has not changed church doctrine, he has urged Catholics to shift their focus from culture war issues to caring for people on society's margins, especially the poor.

"I see the church as a field hospital after battle," Francis said in September.

American Catholics appear to like the new course the Pope has set for their church. Nearly two-thirds agree with him about the amount of attention that should be paid to issues such as abortion and homosexuality, according to the CNN/ORC poll.

More than 85% of American Catholics say Francis is neither too liberal nor too conservative, and 86% say he's in touch with the modern world. By comparison, more than half of American Catholics said Pope John Paul II was out of step with the times in 2003, near the end of his 26-year-long papacy.

But Francis has been a fierce critic of the status quo, especially what calls the "idolatry of money" present in modern-day capitalism. In a papal statement last month, for example, the Pope blasted the theory of trickle-down economics, calling it "crude and naïve."

Conservative critics such as Rush Limbaugh pounced on the Pope's remarks, calling him a closet Marxist. But nearly two in three American Catholics agree with the Pope about capitalism and the free market's effects on the poor, according to the CNN/ORC poll.

Pope: Marxist ideology is 'wrong'

On other key issues for Catholics - the role of women in the church and the sexual abuse crises - Francis gets similarly high ratings from his American flock.

More than six in 10 American Catholics agree with Francis' comments about women in the church, according to the CNN/ORC poll. The Pope has said that women should have a larger role in church governance but cannot be ordained as priests.

Similarly, more than six in 10 American Catholics say Francis is doing a good job handling fallout from the church's sexual abuse scandal, even as most (64%) also say the church overall has done a poor job on the issue.

This month, the Vatican announced the creation of a new commission to care for victims of clergy sexual abuse and to prevent future crimes.

American Catholics had given especially low marks on the sexual abuse scandal to Francis' predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI, with just 36% saying in 2010 that he had handled the issue well.

CNN's Holland said it's difficult to ascertain exactly how Francis' popularity stacks up against his predecessors, however. "It's a tough question since polling on Popes is pretty sparse," he said.

What's more, like political polling, approval ratings shift depending on the public mood and perception of a Pope's performance.

For example, three-quarters of American Catholics approved of how John Paul was leading the church in 1994; that number rose to 84% in 1999 and dipped to 64% in 2003, at the height of the church's sexual abuse crisis.

It remains to be seen how long the honeymoon will last for Francis, and how long he can continue to build goodwill among American Catholics.

The poll was conducted for CNN by ORC International on December 16 through Thursday, with 1,035 adults nationwide, including 191 Catholics, questioned by telephone. The survey's overall sampling error is plus or minus three percentage points.

Pope Francis' greatest hits of 2013

- CNN Religion Editor

Filed under: Catholic Church • Christianity • Culture wars • Leaders • Pope Benedict XVI • Pope Francis • Pope John Paul II • Sex abuse • Vatican

soundoff (3,274 Responses)
  1. jsdrt0616

    Do you know how to multiply integers?.

    Let´s multiply, in order for you to see why the Catholic Church is powerful enough as to mantein a large set of lies in the newspapers day after day.

    The Church had around 1.2e9 people as flock, they payed around 1e4 dollars per year in average, the Church has been able to charge this money for , let´s say, 1e2 years, to compensate because there were less people in the past, the we estimate in this way that the Church has around 1.2e (9+4+2) = 1.2e15 = 1.2 thousand trillion dollars.

    The Church is very RICH, and so, you will keep seing very favorablke polls in the future.

    December 24, 2013 at 2:30 pm |
    • Charm Quark

      Quick get back to your room Nurse Ratched is coming.

      December 24, 2013 at 2:38 pm |
  2. sybaris

    Approval of a Pope is like approval of a #2 lead pencil but the pencil is more useful

    December 24, 2013 at 2:29 pm |
  3. jsdrt0616

    This Pope or any other have been able to refute the onjectionst against Christianity, that it is why this Pope is acting like in a Circus.

    I don´t believe in God.

    But, let´s assume that a God appears and says that he created the Universe... How could you verify it?...

    Answer: You wouldn´t be able to veruify nothing, because by definition, the Gods would be TOO MUCH powerful, and so, they could deceive any human.

    google: Clear proof that god doesn´t exist

    December 24, 2013 at 2:23 pm |
    • Robbie

      So your a Muslim.......right?

      December 24, 2013 at 2:27 pm |
    • igaftr

      That shows nothing, since you presume what the definition of "god" is.
      Speculation is not proof.

      December 24, 2013 at 2:28 pm |
    • PA

      Stupidest thing I've read in a while. So kudos and be sure to continue showcasing your lesser intelligence, it amuses me.

      December 24, 2013 at 2:30 pm |
    • Raging Dragon

      Must... report... your post... for murder... of the English language...

      December 24, 2013 at 2:30 pm |
  4. Bootyfunk

    i wrote:
    "besides saying a few nice words, what has the pope actually done? no change in dogma. no change in doctrine. what has he done?"

    then Mirror wrote:
    All you do is troll message boards looking for delusional religious people to hate on. Nobody on here has actually seen you doing anything different or better.

    instead of attacking me, why don't try answering my question. just because you don't like my question doesn't make it invalid. i wasn't trolling - YOU are. instead of debating a serious question, you start throwing out accusations of trolling. try answering my question and leave the personal attacks aside.

    December 24, 2013 at 2:23 pm |
  5. JoeyE

    Who cares about Pope, if you worship him, you're a hypocrite! Jesus is number 1! Pope is NOTHING!

    December 24, 2013 at 2:21 pm |
    • Oh

      Who worships the Pope? Nobody I know. You have a odd definition of the word "worship".

      December 24, 2013 at 2:27 pm |
  6. jsdrt0616

    The Pope is pure Propaganda... as have have been done since 2000 years ago, when they invented Christianity.

    How could you belive in the guys (Roman Catholic Church) that concealed for 500 years from the poor Mexicans that the original Virgin of Guadalupe was of Extremadura, Spain? As easy was for the RCC to deceive at this as it was for they to fabricate the Story of Jesus.

    Jesus never was trhe Son of God because God has no chromosomes, and if "God" would have created some chromosomes , then that THING would be a CREATURE, not a SON.... my good believer : Think !

    google: The Story of Jesus was fabricated by the romans

    December 24, 2013 at 2:19 pm |
    • Robbie

      Your stupid....

      December 24, 2013 at 2:25 pm |
      • igaftr

        your stupid...what?
        Your stupid dog?
        your stupid sister?
        Your stupid grammar?
        your stupid worng choice of the form of your?

        December 24, 2013 at 2:30 pm |
  7. nik green

    Pope Francis: You Rock!!!

    December 24, 2013 at 2:18 pm |
    • That time of year

      nice to see the catholic clergy posting as atheist, single mom, baptist, former catholic, using muslim names.. and all the other handles.

      Then again, they were trained to deceive,

      December 24, 2013 at 4:44 pm |
  8. Bootyfunk

    besides saying a few nice words, what has the pope actually done? no change in dogma. no change in doctrine. what has he done?

    December 24, 2013 at 2:10 pm |
    • Mirror

      All you do is troll message boards looking for delusional religious people to hate on. Nobody on here has actually seen you doing anything different or better.

      December 24, 2013 at 2:11 pm |
      • Pat

        Are you christian?

        December 24, 2013 at 2:12 pm |
        • Mirror

          I'm not.

          December 24, 2013 at 2:13 pm |
        • Pat

          You must be Muslim if you critique an atheist like that.

          December 24, 2013 at 2:14 pm |
        • Pat

          I'm a Muslim, so I can say anything I want.

          December 24, 2013 at 2:16 pm |
        • Mirror

          Not me.

          December 24, 2013 at 2:18 pm |
        • Bootyfunk

          mirror, why don't you like my question?

          December 24, 2013 at 2:20 pm |
        • Mirror

          Eh, you hate on everything that has to do with religion. You give a free pass to trolls who exhibit bad behavior because they, too, attack the religious people hate. You should clean up your side of the street before you start pointing fingers at a pope.

          December 24, 2013 at 2:26 pm |
        • Bootyfunk

          Eh, you hate on everything that has to do with religion.
          +++ not everything. i've given credit many times for churches feeding the poor. so you're wrong.

          You give a free pass to trolls who exhibit bad behavior because they, too, attack the religious people hate.
          +++ what are you're religious beliefs/views? are you religious? you seem to be coming from a victimization stance. someone criticizes religion and you call it bad behavior - because you disagree with the message. YOU are the only one that has attacked here. YOU, not me. i asked a serious question - which you still haven't answered. you often deflect question for which you have no answer?

          You should clean up your side of the street before you start pointing fingers at a pope.
          +++ you have no idea who i am. you're judging me based on what must be a tiny percentage of my posts. i love all my brothers and sisters and have said it many, many times. did you miss that? and i have every right to criticize the pope for his inaction.

          instead of attacking me, why don't you try answering my question.

          December 24, 2013 at 2:32 pm |
        • Mirror

          I'm exhibiting the same kind of debate tactic that 75% of the atheists on here utilize when discussing with theists.
          Apparently you guys don't like the taste of your own medicine.

          December 24, 2013 at 2:36 pm |
        • Bootyfunk

          and once again you avoid the question and instead attack me and atheists.

          instead of making accusations, just say "i have no answer for your question."

          December 24, 2013 at 2:38 pm |
        • Mirror

          I'm not Cathoilc, religious or now anything about a pope. I just troll atheist trolls who troll pope blogs.

          December 24, 2013 at 2:43 pm |
        • Bootyfunk

          you definitely do troll. but that seems to be all you do. try adding to the discussion instead of just trolling.

          December 24, 2013 at 2:52 pm |
        • Mirror

          You spot it you got it. We are making progress.

          December 24, 2013 at 2:59 pm |
      • Bootyfunk

        then you haven't looked at many of my posts. i don't troll. i'm asking a serious question. you don't like my question, no worries - move on. but don't spaz out calling people trolls because you don't like the question.

        December 24, 2013 at 2:18 pm |
    • Oh

      If he changed everything you wanted him to, you'd have nothing to complain about.

      December 24, 2013 at 2:12 pm |
      • Mirror

        He would find something else to hate on. Probably would start trolling sports message boards or political ones.

        December 24, 2013 at 2:16 pm |
      • Bootyfunk

        that'd be great. i'd love to see that. i'd love to look at the pope and have nothing to complain about. lol.

        December 24, 2013 at 2:19 pm |
        • Oh

          I have the feeling you would complain that he believes in God.

          December 24, 2013 at 2:26 pm |
        • Bootyfunk

          you said if the pope changed EVERYthing...
          if he changed everything, he would no longer believe in or support God.
          so you're wrong - if he changed EVERYthing, we'd agree there is no God,
          thus i'd have nothing to complain about.

          but that's not at all what i'm talking about.
          i'm talking about making it so women can be leaders in the church - pope francis says they cannot.
          i'm talking about instead of ambiguous words like, "who am i to judge?" when talking about g.ays, the pope actually changes doctrine, says there is nothing wrong with being g.ay, tries to stop the h.omophobia spread by the bible.
          i'm talking about telling people to USE condoms so they don't get HIV/AIDs instead of telling them not to use birth control.

          so Oh, why don't you answer my questions. so far, like you're buddy, you've avoided the subject, instead subtlety attacking me. wanna answer the question?

          December 24, 2013 at 2:36 pm |
    • JoeS

      The Pope lost his priesthood authority a long time ago even though they preached some good moral value. Hopefully, they will change their doctrines, so that the Priesthood will be restored to them.

      December 24, 2013 at 2:20 pm |
    • brokenpinata

      The fact that the far right are calling him a Marxist and he's causing stirrings at the Vatican should be evident enough. Sure, he hasn't rewritten the books, but he's taking progressive steps in a direction that is better for all of mankind, not just the RCC. There are centuries of mistakes and doctrine that needs corrected, so don't expect anything to happen right away.

      For the record, I was born and raised Catholic, but am now agnostic and I applaud this new pope.

      December 24, 2013 at 2:26 pm |
      • Bootyfunk

        i love some of the things he's said, but he hasn't actually done anything. no changes to church doctrine or dogma. pretty words are nice, but they only get you so far. what has he done?

        December 24, 2013 at 2:50 pm |
  9. Reality # 2

    Again, Francis will fail unless he addresses the crumbling historical and theological foundations of the RCC to include the Xmas con. (see p. 1 of the comments for added details)


    December 24, 2013 at 2:06 pm |
  10. DB100

    Most happy about his opinion that the Church should express its views and provide guidance on issues like abortion and contraception, but should not dwell on individual issues to the point of ignoring all other issues.

    Total reversal from his predecessor.

    December 24, 2013 at 2:04 pm |
  11. One one

    As a non-believer, I see this as simply the same book with a new cover. However, the new cover is more appealing than the previous one. IMO, it's too early to tell if the appeal is real or just image.

    December 24, 2013 at 2:03 pm |
  12. Sarah Palin

    The Pope is a socialist liberal who should be removed from power.
    Who does he think he is ?
    The Pope ?

    December 24, 2013 at 2:02 pm |
    • Mete Krope

      Ms. Palin, you are ignorant. do you think the pop should act like your greedy masters.

      December 24, 2013 at 2:08 pm |
    • One one

      Now that's funny.

      December 24, 2013 at 2:15 pm |
  13. Vj

    Why to poll pope's rating? A highest member of a church (Catholics) should always be respected irrespective of what he/she says?? I am Hindu, I like all the religious leaders irrespective of all the religions of this beautiful world. They got into highest level due to their hard work and wise thinking... CNN please don't poll any religious leaders.

    December 24, 2013 at 1:59 pm |
    • Oh

      They're not polling religious leaders; they're polling the followers.

      December 24, 2013 at 2:14 pm |
  14. hrh

    Albino Luciani - FIP

    December 24, 2013 at 1:58 pm |
    • Tar

      Yes... Fart in Peace.

      December 24, 2013 at 2:02 pm |
      • Gobsmacked


        December 24, 2013 at 2:06 pm |
    • Oh

      For those who don't know, this is Pope John Paul I.

      December 24, 2013 at 2:21 pm |
  15. Mtippets

    God Bless this good man for a Mormon in Utah

    December 24, 2013 at 1:57 pm |
  16. spudnik56

    Waste of a life...

    December 24, 2013 at 1:50 pm |
    • spudick56is

      Yes you are!

      December 24, 2013 at 2:00 pm |
  17. Demigod Vadik, CA

    I like this Pope...

    ...I'm not a Catholic, but I have always defended them because of unfair attacks people made on them, especially evangelicals who's Church is 100 times more backwards and dangerous...

    ...but this Pope has been a bright new shining beacon in a faith that I always knew had IT in it...

    December 24, 2013 at 1:46 pm |
  18. BrickellPrincess

    He is becoming too popular for his own good. That doesn't sit well with the dinosaurs that plague the Vatican.

    December 24, 2013 at 1:45 pm |
    • Charm Quark

      Yep, they have whacked others for less.

      December 24, 2013 at 1:48 pm |
      • hrh

        Albino Luciani - RIP

        December 24, 2013 at 1:58 pm |
        • Charm Quark

          Roberto Calvi, RIP.

          December 24, 2013 at 2:10 pm |
    • JJ

      He probably has someone taste his food before every meal.

      December 24, 2013 at 1:51 pm |
  19. Zach

    I'm gay and I'm an atheist. This man, I hope he opens up the eyes of the so many hateful and judgmental people who don the name "Christian" and use the bible to condemn what they fear or do not know. Every time I see an article with his name on it, I know that when I get done reading it I'll be smiling. He's an amazing HUMAN BEING. We could all learn a lesson from him, regardless of religion or lack thereof. Compassion and empathy win over people much better than hate and anger. Pope Francis, please keep continuing down the path that you're on, and maybe, just maybe more people will follow in your footsteps!!!

    December 24, 2013 at 1:44 pm |
    • jon wyatt

      Same here ! I'll "amen" to your comment.

      December 24, 2013 at 1:50 pm |
    • JD

      I find it odd that an atheist would know what a "Christian" believes, let alone being capable of identifying the good ones that are absent of " hateful and judgmental" ways.

      While the Lords Prayer "...thy will be done, on earth as is in heaven..." justifies the popes dream of a utopian society, the embracing of statism will be the downfall of the church. Mostly because statists seek to replace God with Govt. It's really quite simple....if your rights come from government, then government can take those rights away.

      Because of this, I think the Pope would best serve the Church by embracing positions of Liberty and Justice. Until then, I will pray for him.

      December 24, 2013 at 2:26 pm |
      • G to the T

        We have quite a few mechanisms in place to ensure that our rights are not taken by the government (separation of powers, bill of rights, consti.tution, etc.) but even if those right did originate from "up above" somehow, without these "mortal" checks and balances, the gov could take them aware regardless of their origin.

        December 27, 2013 at 3:23 pm |
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About this blog

The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.