Pope very popular in United States, but no 'Francis effect': poll

Thu Mar 6, 2014 12:09am EST
 
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By Tom Heneghan

(Reuters) - One year after his election, Pope Francis is "immensely popular among American Catholics," a survey said on Thursday, but there is no sign of a "Francis effect" inspiring more to attend Mass or do volunteer work.

The Washington-based Pew Research Center said 85 percent of Catholics in the United States viewed the Argentine-born pontiff favorably, with 51 percent reporting a "very favourable" view of him, while only 4 percent expressed a negative opinion.

Among Catholics, 68 percent thought he represented "a major change for the better," a view shared by 51 percent of the non-Catholics responding to the poll in telephone interviews of 1,340 Americans from February 14 to 23.

But the poll also found the rock-star status of the pope, whose simple style has attracted record crowds to the Vatican and won Time magazine's Man of the Year title for 2013, has not clearly translated into greater lay participation in the church since his surprise election on March 13, 2013.

"There has been no measurable rise in the percentage of Americans who identify as Catholic," the survey said. "Nor has there been a statistically significant change in how often Catholics say they go to Mass."

Forty percent of Catholics said they were now praying more often and 26 percent were "more excited" about their faith, but their frequency of going to confession or volunteering at church has not changed.

RISING EXPECTATIONS

"If there has been a 'Francis effect', it has been most pronounced among Catholics who already were highly committed to the practice of their faith," the survey concluded.   Continued...

 
Pope Francis blesses the altar during Ash Wednesday at Santa Sabina Basilica in Rome March 5, 2014. REUTERS/Max Rossi