Gallup Poll shows sharp drop in papal popularity

Teflon shortage? Pope Francis endures sudden drop in support, especially among political conservatives.

Growing conservative disaffection with Pope Francis appears to be taking a toll on his once Teflon-grade popularity in the U.S., with a new Gallup poll showing the pontiff’s favorability rating among all Americans dropping to 59 percent from a 76 percent peak early last year.

Among conservatives, the drop-off has been especially sharp: Just 45 percent view Francis favorably today, as opposed to 72 percent a year ago.

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“This decline may be attributable to the pope’s denouncing of ‘the idolatry of money’ and attributing climate change partially to human activity, along with his passionate focus on income inequality — all issues that are at odds with many conservatives’ beliefs,” Gallup analyst Art Swift wrote on July 22 when the survey was published.

But liberal fervor for the Argentine pope, who was elected to great acclaim in March 2013, has also cooled, dropping an average of 14 points.

Some observers have predicted that many who embraced the pope’s candor and his views on a range of social justice issues would temper their ardor as they realized he would not change church teachings on hot-button issues such as abortion or contraception or gay marriage.

Another major factor is that the number of those who expressed “no opinion” about the pope or said they don’t know enough about him rose from 16 percent to 25 percent. That may be linked to fewer magazine cover stories on the pope, or more critical stories.

The poll comes just as American Catholics are set to welcome the pope this September for his first visit to the U.S. It essentially returns Francis to approval levels he had in the first months after his election.

The fall-off appears to be relatively recent: A Pew Research Center survey from February showed Francis’ approval rating among all Americans at 70 percent, and at a remarkable 90 percent among all Catholics.

That number had been steadily increasing, among Republicans and conservatives, as well, despite their concerns that Francis was not stressing issues such as abortion while highlighting social justice themes.

But the Gallup poll, which has a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percentage points for results based on the total sample, was conducted earlier this month in the middle of Francis’ visit to three countries in Latin America during which he delivered some of his most powerful remarks on economic justice and environmental protection.

That prompted Western journalists on the papal plane, with a view to Francis’ upcoming U.S. visit, to ask whether he needs to say more about “the middle class, that is, the working people, the people who pay taxes, normal people.”

Francis responded by saying that he needed to address that aspect of his message and would read his critics ahead of the Sept. 22-27 U.S. trip.

Stephen Schneck, head of the Institute for Policy Research & Catholic Studies at Catholic University of America in Washington, blamed pundits on the right and left, like Rush Limbaugh and Rachel Maddow, for “politicizing” the pope’s teachings.

“He’s not a conservative or progressive, not a Democrat or Republican. So stop trying to clobber him with those yardsticks,” Schneck wrote in an email. “How many times do our pundits need to be told that he’s carrying the same message as John Paul II and Benedict XVI?”

Schneck said that as the visit approaches, he expects Francis’ poll numbers “to rebound to his strong, earlier levels — that is, if both the right and the left will stop dragging him into their partisan squabbles.”

Is it too late? Has “Francis fatigue” displaced the “Francis effect”?

After the Latin America trip, popular conservative Catholic blogger Elizabeth Scalia wrote a lengthy post saying she is “frankly just tired of feeling scolded.”

“I love His Holiness Pope Francis, but for a while now, I have been feeling harangued by him, as he’s been harping on us to do more, and ever more, to practice mercy on the world; to welcome the stranger, to clean up the rivers, to bring about justice and peace in our time; to level the playing fields, visit the sick, and so on,” Scalia wrote.

That lament was picked up by other conservatives, such as Carl Olson, editor of Catholic World Report, who complained about what he sees as Francis’ constant “haranguing, harping, exhorting, lecturing.”

“It probably doesn’t help,” Olson added, “that Francis obsesses over particular points, to a degree that is, frankly, grating.”

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Jack Rakosky
3 years 4 months ago
High papal approval ratings are a result of what I have called “Catholic Pride” which is similar to pride in sports teams or national pride. One can have pride in things British, French or Italian without necessarily being that nationality. One can have Notre Dame pride without being Irish, Catholic or an alumnus. People who are proud of things Catholic gave Francis a strong thumbs up because he reminded them of the many things that made them proud of Catholicism. He reminded them of the many priests who have the smell of sheep, of the many religious women and lay people who minister at the peripheries of society. JP2 also evoked Catholic Pride for very different reasons, his opposition to Communism, and his many trips which celebrated the presence of Catholicism around the world; he enjoyed high approval ratings because of the wide approval for these things. Now that the honeymoon with Francis(that is the celebration of Catholic pride) is over, people are focusing more on the issues that are in the news. For an extensive application (with survey and anecdotal evidence) of this notion of Catholic pride to the issue of the Vatican and Women Religious see my analysis of “Why we are all nuns” in my post at the Praytellblog: http://www.praytellblog.com/index.php/2012/08/05/why-we-are-all-nuns-catholic-pride-universal-call-to-holiness/ If we look at ratings of Popes and Bishops, they go down when the news is bad (e.g. the sexual abuse scandal) but creep back up as people forget about the news and are more influenced by long term Catholic pride.
Dee Thompson
3 years 4 months ago
Sounds to me like Pope Francis is getting the same responses that Jesus received when he said the same things!
Joseph J Dunn
3 years 4 months ago
It is fortuitous, or perhaps extremely good planning, that the Holy Father will be in the United States soon, and that his messages in Laudato Si and Joy of the Gospel can be applied with more precision to the situation here, as he sees our country. I suspect that he might have admonitions for us on topics beyond the scope of these two messages, since each was addressed to a very broad audience. Laudato Si is addressed to "every person living on this planet." Especially interesting is the Pope's statement during the in-flight news conference regarding criticisms from some Americans of his pronouncements on capitalism. "I have to begin to study it now…I have to begin studying these criticisms, no? And then dialogue a bit with this." It seems he may be pointing to a way of proceeding that he learned long ago, from the First Proposition of the Spiritual Exercises. This does not lead me to believe that his messages will change. As he says, he preaches the Gospel, in a manner consistent with established social teaching. I wonder if the staff preparing him for this trip, and assisting in his study of the issues, will help identify a few unique aspects of American capitalism that might be consistent with Francis's messages about the obligations that come with private property, the destination of wealth toward the common good, etc. I note that in three South American countries he found positive things to say about them, without diluting (and in fact, while repeating) his central messages. Philadelphia has a very interesting saint, Katharine Drexel, who used her inheritance of one of the country's largest banking fortunes to fund the work of her Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament establishing schools for blacks and Native Americans. Because of the size of the fortune, these schools operated on a huge scale. Beyond that, Katharine contributed to the needs of other congregations and societies doing similar work, always with the knowledge and approval of the local bishops. There is also the not uncommon practice of America's wealthiest, even from the days of Ben Franklin, to leave their wealth to foundations, trusts or charitable institutions that help accomplish real social progress. I'm sure the Pope's staff can find many more examples. And perhaps a nod to America's large number of Catholic (and other faiths' ) universities that promote values consistent with the Pope's messages, thus preparing new generations to do the work of building a better world. Many of those universities rely on charitable gifts, some of which are from wealthy people who share his commitment to a more just world. The Pope may have comments on other issues that he deems especially relevant for us. One thing is certain: Whatever he chooses to say, the nation, and the world, will be listening.
Bruce Snowden
3 years 4 months ago
We call him “Father” and more, “Holy Father” why then the “plummet?” Why for some has Pope Francis become “grating?” To me, in a way, Mt. 12-vs16-19 gives a hint – a kind of spoiled brats syndrome commentary, a typical childish conclusion – “What does Daddy know anyway? He’s so negative!” Is it not common knowledge that Fatherhood (parenting) is a “grating” experiences? What’s more grating for a child (Pope Francis’ kids?) than the constant reminder, “Do this!” “Do that!” “Don’t forget to brush your teeth!” etc., On and on. Pope Francis is a loving Father doing his job – caring as it were, for the teeth of our souls! Our bodies too – read “Praised Be” to see the depth of his care for God’s materiality and ours in it every form! How about our Heavenly Father’s universal call to “Holiness?” It's also Holy Father Francis' business too. Oh, is that ever “grating!’ Is there anything more “grating” than commands un-arbitrarily given in ten “thou shall nots …!” No choice. Do it or perish! What could be more “grating” that that? Does God expect too much from us kids of God? Yeah. And Pope Francis is just like him! All I can say is Praised be for Pope Francis. He's got the bucking bull of rebellious humanity by its horns. And that's no bull!
Chris Miller
3 years 4 months ago
Frankly, I'm in love with Pope Francis! For the last 50 years, I've watched the "Christian" fundamentalists ignore the life-giving and loving words of Jesus: to feed the hungry, care for the poor, etc. in favor of a works-righteousness shadow of the Good News of the Gospel. Francis has done a lot in the first couple of years of his papacy. Has he achieved everything everyone might want him to do, no, but that is not a reasonable expectation. He has been preceded by two Pope who were both strong conservatives in their approach to the Gospel, and it takes a long time to shift the course of the Barque of Peter. Pope St. John Paul II and Benedict XVI have between them have had 40 years to shape the Episcopacy and the leadership structures of the Church, and that will take a long time to temper and change. To expect all that to happen in a couple of years is just unreasonable. I hope that his papacy continues for at least 3-4 years. Then we will see who follows him in this Office he holds. In the meantime, I will continue to pray for him and for those of my brothers and sisters who belong to this Church. Pr Chris
norman ravitch
3 years 4 months ago
Pope Francis knows some things that conservatives, Catholic or otherwise, just don't recognize. 1. The Sermon on the Mount does not endorse unregulated capitalism. 2. There are more ways to violate God's law than by having abortions and using birth control. 3. While people of all social classes need God those in affluence need Him and His forgiveness perhaps more than others. 4. The United States, despite official religiosity about its founding, was not the expected Kingdom of God nor the desired offspring of Providence. 5., War can be a last resort to save God's people but the use or threat of war for mundane materialistic reasons can never be approved by God. I could go on and on. But the point is that American could use a good dose of sack cloth and ashes for its activities, its lack of morality, its sexual decadence, and its pride.
3 years 4 months ago
I know of NO marriage in which the "honeymoon" lasted forever and ever. The romantic whirl of courtship and first years of marriage soon settles into a narrative of what we simply call real life. The former doesn't set the pace for the latter nor the latter annihilate the presence of the former. Perhaps too, if we were able to poll how each individual feels about all other individuals, a Catholic about all Catholics, an American about all Americans, we might find that it's not always baptism day with all agog at our innocence nor July 4th with all proudly drumming our patriotic love of country. In short there is a time for romantic honeymoons as well as for steadfast, life long, ups and downs relationships. I care little if the honeymoon if over. It's not important. But rolling up our sleeves and joining, engaging, Pope Francis in discerning together the future of our planet, the welfare of all people and ultimately welcoming the love of God into our sometimes sorry lives is.
Richard Booth
3 years 4 months ago
It is regressive and ignorant to suggest that the message of Francis is other than the same message echoed by caring persons over many, many centuries. The central moral question is, to phrase it simply: Are we responsible for only ourselves and our own interests or do we share a humanity that yearns for fairness and parity? As we peruse world history, it would appear that, since everyone needs someone sometime and we are made of the same stuff, coming together is more advanced than separating from each other. This is not only the message of humanistic living; it is the message of Christ.
John Barbieri
3 years 4 months ago
Popularity -- particularly by the media -- comes and goes even as the ocean rises and falls. Pope Francis is no longer a novelty, so the media needs someone or something else to talk about. No worries! Something will happen to raise his popularity only to be followed by its falling again.Then, the whole cycle will repeat, etc.
J Cosgrove
3 years 4 months ago
This drop off in popularity is easy to understand. The pope has done and said a lot of things about many topics but he has done two things extensively that will definitely affect his popularity and neither is within his area of expertise. The first is his constant haranguing of capitalism and his second is his all-in embrace of the global warming issue. The pope's criticism of capitalism has been there from the start and it was apparent in great emphasis during his trip to South America. To the extent that a pro Marxist, Evo Morales, said he had a soul mate in the pope. On top of this the pope has no idea as to what to replace his so called bogeyman. He said he has no solutions. He just criticizes. This is what neo-Marxist do today and have always done. They criticize in order to destabilize societies. So the pope is behaving like modern Marxist in that regards. That is not good. The pope also went after global warming with his recent encyclical and there is much to be considered in this encyclical but his attempt to relate global warming with poverty is a non starter. If anything one could make the argument very persuasively that the activity that causes global warming is allowing much of the world's poor to escape poverty. And limiting economy activity will exacerbate poverty everywhere. So it easy to see how his popularity has dropped. He has wandered way off the reservation of his expertise to the extent he criticizes forces that have actually done a lot of good for the world. Because of this much of his other messages, highly relevant to our world decline, is getting buried under these areas of controversy.
Tom Maher
3 years 4 months ago
The Pope's news conference and hour-long question and answer session with news reporter on his flight back to Rome from his July visit of South American visits on the nations of Ecuador, Bolivia, Paraguay South confirms your point of the Pope's great hostility toward capitalism and great sympathy and tolerance with Marxism practiced within Latin American Church since the 1970s. The July 17, 2015 issue of The Pilot front page article title "Pope says he'll read critiques of his economic thought before U.S. trip" by Carol Wooden is very revealing of the Pope's very strongly held economic thoughts which would indeed easily be considered highly subjective and controversial Latin American views unheard of in North America. The Pope freely and publically speaks on his trip of his highly ideological economic and political views and sympathies. The article says in Pope's speech in Bolivia the Pope described the described the predominate global economic system as having "the mentality of profit at any price with no concern for social exclusion or the destruction of nature." -- Extremely harsh, and unwarranted criticism spoken by the Pope. Yet the Pope warmly receives in Bolivia the "Hammer and Sickle crucifix" (a crucifix with the Marxist Hammer and sickle symbol superimposed over the crucifix) from Bolivian President Evo Morales in person on July 8, 2015. The crucifix was designed by Jesuit Father Luis Espinal who was killed in Bolivia in 1980. The article says the Pope Francis said he did know, however, that Father Espinal was among the Latin American theologians in the 1970s who found Marxist political, social and economic analysis helpful for understanding their countries and their people's struggle and that the Jesuit also used Marxist theology in his theology. It was four years after the Jesuit's murder that the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith said plainly that Marxist theory had no place in a Catholic theology the pope pointed out. The Pope was also honored by making part of the Order of Father Espinal with medals bearing a copy of the hammer and sickle crucifix which the pope received and arranged to preserve. The pope's anti-capitalist and pro-Marxist sympathies are very disturbing and very unexpected in the twenty-five years after the total collapse of the Soviet Union and all of its satellites. The pope views when known are very unexpected and unwelcomed reminders of the Cold War and the worldwide struggle with totalitarian Marxist communism during most of the 20th century. The pope will have a huge public relations problem with his economic and political views which will shock North America audiences on his visit in September.
Chuck Kotlarz
3 years 4 months ago
The Pope’s comments could not better align with “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness”. On the other hand, the donor class has all but abolished the US constitution. King George perhaps would be envious. Two people from the billion dollar donor class can influence not only presidential elections, but also every gubernatorial election, every one of the 535 congressional campaigns and each and every one of 7,382 state legislator elections. Clearly the democracy envisioned by the founding fathers has been compromised.
Vicktor Moberg
3 years 4 months ago
His popularity in America is dropping because he's making Americans uncomfortable, which is a GOOD thing. He's talking about topics that we don't like, i.e., global warming and the need to take better care of the poor. When American's don't like something, we claim it's offensive and write laws to ban it.
3 years 4 months ago
To call the popes views a "criticism" of capitalism may skew what he is saying way too negatively. Perhaps he is offering a "critique" of capitalism. Even if the term criticism must be used I sense that this is a very evangelical process helping us to see the good and the bad. It contextualizes ideology by keeping our feet on the ground and not in the clouds. Much like a literary critic a pope or any good preacher helps us weigh the pros and cons of even our best intentions, systems, opinions, convictions and thoughts.
J Cosgrove
3 years 4 months ago
To call the pope's views a "criticism" of capitalism may skew what he is saying way too negatively
Maybe you could enlighten us as to the positive message of the Pope relevant to capitalism? I have seen none but am always willing to be convinced. Maybe the America reporters are mis-reporting. Or the other news services. What are his solutions to the so called evils he is describing? His failure to attribute the incredible reduction of poverty in the world over the last 200 years due to various forms of capitalism speaks volumes.
Tom Maher
3 years 4 months ago
I have to agree. There is something very wrong with the pope's strongly negative message attacking capitalism. The recent historic record is the Soviet Union and its satellites abandoned Marxist socialism and Communist China has embraced capitalism and has vastly improved the economic lives of most of its citizens over the last forty years. after rejecting Mao's Marxist economics. Why is the pope so at odds with history and the positive results of capitalism? It Marxist socialism is so great why have more than half the worlds population rejected it in favor of capitalism?
Chuck Kotlarz
3 years 4 months ago
The Pope perhaps did not miss out hearing how well trickle down economics worked in the US.
Tom Maher
3 years 4 months ago
Hopefully the Pope will study, as he said he would, the worldwide criticism he received for his repeated very negative public criticisms of capitalism during his trip to three South America countries in early July, 2015. The Pope's statements demonstrates his knowledge of current, worldwide economics is seriously flawed and limited. It would be very ill advised and extremely antagonistic and divisive for the Pope to come to the United States in September with the same anti-capitalist messages he delivered to a Marxist President and audience in Bolivia. As a intellectual matter the Pope's anti-capitalist views are not tenable. The Pope and his advisers urgently needs a wider perspective in any economic statements made by the Pope to demonstrate a more realistic and less idiosyncratic understanding of current worldwide economics. Especially the Pope needs to avoid antagonistic Marxist class warfare references. Marxist principles and rationales are not widely accepted economic standards in North America in the 21st century. The Pope needs a more realistic economic basis to criticize capitalism other than failed and disproven Marxist socialist solutions.
Chuck Kotlarz
3 years 4 months ago
Yes, why would the pope criticize US capitalism which leads the developed world in child poverty and the entire world in murders per capita and prison population?
Tom Maher
3 years 4 months ago
The Pope's Bolivian speech does not reference US Capitalism but more broadly references "the predominant global economic system" which is worldwide capitalism. The Pope's speech very negatively and without any merit described the predominate global economic system as having "the mentality of profit at any price with no concern for social exclusion or the destruction of nature". Criticism of the Pope's speeches was worldwide including much criticism of the speech from the United States. The Pope's negative remarks on worldwide capitalism are objectionable and latest cause for concern. The Pope will be visiting Cuba a communist economic system and the United States a capitalist economy this September 2015. The concern is the Pope will continue very provokingly to denigrate capitalistic economic systems while favoring the Marxist socialist economic system in Cuba.
Chuck Kotlarz
3 years 4 months ago
Demographics (divorce, safety, health, incarceration, etc.) of conservative dominant states often rank at the bottom of the US. If conservative ideology is so great why the poor rankings?
Chuck Kotlarz
3 years 4 months ago
Whether the Pope’s comments are good or bad is less relevant. Unless the Pope makes capitalism the sacrament of the wealthy, his comments or the comments of anyone else are potential hurdles to more profit.
norman ravitch
3 years 4 months ago
There are even some claims that the Pope is the Antichrist! The church needs to denounce all these apocalyptic references (yes, and remove the book of Revelations while at it); there is no devil; there is no antichrist; Yes, there is a God but He is a God unlike what most people expect, someOne who spends all His time listening to people's petty requests for this and that. It is time Catholics grew up. Pope Francis is trying to lead us to reality, but most Catholics prefer their dream-like reveries and stupidities. And let the money changers leave the church finally.
norman ravitch
3 years 4 months ago
Maybe not priests, but lay people know honeymoons don't last very long.

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