CNN Poll: American Catholics approve of new pope
March 19th, 2013
03:30 AM ET
10 years ago

CNN Poll: American Catholics approve of new pope

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.

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"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.

Filed under: Faith • Polls
soundoff (7 Responses)
  1. Marie MD

    Maybe for his work with the poor but this guy is still against contraceptives, abortion and, of course, women's rights or advancement in general.
    He IS still a catholic priest.

    March 19, 2013 06:44 am at 6:44 am |
  2. BFD

    BFD. A new rug is just that – a new rug. How many rugs have there been?

    March 19, 2013 06:53 am at 6:53 am |
  3. albert

    The biggest problem with the new pope is that he is still Catholic. It doesn't matter how "nice", or "humble" he is. He still practices traditions of men rather than God. He still condones idol worship. He still celebrates holidays rooted in pagan tradition and Greek mythology. He leads a church that continues to make a mockery of God.

    March 19, 2013 07:12 am at 7:12 am |
  4. Russell

    The former pope's "opinions" were never considered infallible. When the pope is making a declaration "ex-cathedra" (in his official capacity as the man occupying the chair of Peter), he is protected from error - only when he is addressing matters of faith and morals, such as in interpreting the scriptures. This is a very narrow window and not used as much as you think.

    March 19, 2013 07:25 am at 7:25 am |
  5. Cholby

    That was a really insightful poll. Next up: "CNN poll finds Muslims like Allah"

    March 19, 2013 07:26 am at 7:26 am |
  6. Realist

    ..worse crimes were committed by the vast majority of popes, bishops and cardinals,, the cover ups of children abused. The cover ups denied children, all to protect themselves over children's lives.

    Children left to cope alone are at the greatest risk for mental illness and some suicidal. This is what the cover ups caused.

    The cover ups also enabled those who harmed to harm so many more children. Today the catholic church lobbies to stop laws that would expose the truth. Yet the truth is the greatest healer.

    This pope, other popes, bishops and cardinals were successful in destroying children's lives. Not a single one stood by victims, they all stood for their own selfish greed.

    This is the catholic church.

    March 19, 2013 07:26 am at 7:26 am |
  7. victim of this disgusting religion

    what a filth pit the catholic church is

    March 19, 2013 07:29 am at 7:29 am |