Most Americans have a favorable view of Pope Francis and think he has a message for all the country’s citizens, but most also know little about him and aren’t sure news reports about him are accurate, a new survey reports.
“On his trip to the United States, not only will Pope Francis get to know the American people, but the American people will also get to know him," Supreme Knight Carl Anderson of the Knights of Columbus said Aug. 26.
“The Pope is popular among Americans, and especially among Catholics, and there is a hunger for his message, with the vast majority of Americans understanding that he brings a message for all of us."
The Knights of Columbus-Marist Poll surveyed Americans about the Pope ahead of his visit in late September.
Almost 60 percent of respondents said they had a favorable or very favorable view of Pope Francis. This is about the same rating Benedict XVI had before his 2008 visit to the U.S. Ten percent of respondents voiced an unfavorable view of the Pope, while about 32 percent said they were unsure, or had not heard of the Pope.
Among all Catholic respondents, 77 percent viewed Pope Francis favorably. Practicing Catholics were most favorable, with 83 percent rating him favorably or very favorably.
Respondents approved of the Pope’s role as a spiritual and a world leader. They rated him highly for his work on inter-religious relations, and thought he was someone who cares about people like them.
The Pope will visit the U.S. Sept. 22-27, with stops in Washington, D.C., New York City, and Philadelphia. He will address Congress and the United Nations, and say the closing Mass for the World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia.
However, almost three quarters of Americans say they know little or nothing about the Pope’s U.S. visit. About 55 percent of practicing Catholic respondents said the same.
At the same time, 72 percent of Americans said the Pope has a message for all Americans, as did 90 percent of practicing Catholics.
The survey found that about 63 percent of Americans said they rarely or never follow news about the Pope. By contrast, 67 percent of practicing Catholics and 60 percent of all Catholics said they follow news stories about him.
Over half of Americans and 60 percent of practicing Catholics said they think reporters’ own points of view shape news about Pope Francis. Only about 35 percent of each group said papal news is “mostly accurate."
Overall, the survey’s respondents were sceptical toward both major news outlets and Catholic media. Only about 40 percent of survey respondents trusted these news sources for accurate news about the Pope. However, about 70 percent of practicing Catholics said they trusted Catholic media outlets for accurate reports on Pope Francis’ visit.
About 66 percent of Americans approved of the Catholic Church, including 95 percent of practicing Catholics and 90 percent of Catholics overall. Poll respondents tended to approve of the Church’s contribution to people and communities in the U.S.
The survey’s sponsor, the Knights of Columbus, are a Catholic fraternal organization with almost 1.9 million members worldwide. The survey was conducted by the Marist Institute for Public Opinion at Marist College in Poughkeepsie, N.Y.
The survey of 1,027 U.S. adults and 222 U.S. Catholics was taken Aug. 4-17. It claims a margin of error of plus or minus 3.1 percentage points for the overall result. and 6.6 percentage points for the Catholic result.
The results also draw on an April 2015 survey of 3,002 U.S. adults and 702 U.S. Catholics.