Pope popular but no US ‘Francis effect’

The so-called ‘Francis effect’ has apparently failed to touch American Catholics, according to a major survey into attitudes stateside.

While Pope Francis stands as a very popular Pontiff among American Catholics overall, a study undertaken by the Pew Research Centre in February as the first anniversary of his papacy approached reveals that his popularity rating has left such categories as Mass attendance and identification as a Catholic unchanged.

For example, Pew reports that prior to Pope Francis’ election, 22% of Americans self-identified as Catholic, a figure unchanged one year later. Meanwhile, in terms of Mass attendance both before and after the election, a figure of 40% also remains unchanged.

When it comes to perceptions of Pope Francis, however, figures surge, with 85% of Catholics viewing the Pope favourably. Pew also reports that 81% of Catholics see the Pontiff as excellent for the spreading of the Faith, with a similar figure seeing him as a defender of traditional moral values. More broadly, 70% of Catholics view Pope Francis as representative of a change in direction for the Church.

Perhaps reflective of this last point, when questioned, 63% of Catholics who report regular Mass attendance voiced support for allowing Catholics to use contraception, while 57% support the idea of married clergy, and 54% believe the Church should ordain women.