Washington (CNN) – American Catholics are very enthusiastic about the choice of Pope Francis to head the Roman Catholic Church, according to a new national survey.
But a CNN/ORC International survey also indicates that you shouldn't expect them to pay any more attention to the new pope's teachings on issues like birth control than they paid to his predecessors.
"Pope Francis is starting off with a huge reservoir of goodwill in the U.S. Eighty-eight percent of American Catholics questioned in our survey approve of his selection as pope," says CNN Polling Director Keating Holland.
By contrast, an ABC News/Washington Post poll in April, 2005, found only 60% of Americans Catholics approved of the selection of Pope Benedict, the predecessor to Francis.
The new poll's release comes as Francis, known until his election as pope last week as Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio of Argentina, is inaugurated Tuesday at a ceremony at the Vatican.
While they support his election as pope, nearly three-quarters of American Catholics say they are more likely to follow their own conscience on difficult moral questions than the teachings of the pope.
What's the biggest change Americans Catholics are looking for from the new Pope?
Nine in ten want stricter policies toward sexual abuse committed by priests.
Nearly three-quarters say Francis should allow Catholics to use birth control, 64% say the pope should allow priest to marry, nearly six in ten say he should allow women to become priests, and by a 52%-46% margin, they say Francis should allow Catholics to divorce and remarry without annulment. But by a 55%-44% margin, American Catholics don't want the pope to make church doctrine on abortion less strict. Both of those margins are within the survey's sampling error.
Six in ten believe the pope is infallible when he teaches formally on matters of faith, such as the divinity of Christ.
As for Francis's predecessor, 86% support Pope Benedict's decision to resign from the papacy.
That decision sets up the remote but uncomfortable possibility that the new pope's policies could be opposed by the former pope, whose opinions on some matters had once been considered infallible.
How would American Catholics react if the former Pope and the current Pope had a public disagreement over important Catholic Church matters?
More than nine in ten say that official Catholic Church policy should be determined by Pope Francis, with only 6% saying that the Catholic Church should be led by the views of the former pope.
The CNN poll was conducted by ORC International March 15-17, with 190 American Catholics questioned by telephone. The survey's sampling error is plus or minus seven percentage points.
– CNN Political Editor Paul Steinhauser contributed to this report.