Pope Benedict's Image Improves Following U.S. Visit

May 06, 2008

Following his first visit to the United States as spiritual leader of the world's Catholics, Pope Benedict XVI is viewed more favorably than he was a few weeks before his trip, based on the latest national survey by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press and the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life. Currently, 61% of Americans say they have a favorable impression of the pope, up from 52% in late March.

Views of Pope Benedict's outreach to other faiths have shown substantial improvement. Roughly half (51%) of those who have heard at least a little about the pope say he has done an excellent or good job with respect to his interfaith efforts while just 29% rate his efforts in this area as only fair or poor. In late March, the public was evenly split in assessments of the pope's promotion of relations with other religions in March (39% excellent or good vs. 40% only fair or poor).

Opinions of Pope Benedict's handling of the Catholic Church's sexual abuse scandal, an issue raised by the pontiff several times during his visit, are more mixed. About half (48%) who have heard something about the pope rate his efforts in addressing the scandal as only fair or poor, while 39% say he has done a good or excellent job in this regard.

The national survey was conducted April 23-30 among 1,000 Americans; it was conducted shortly after the pope's April 15-20 visit to Washington D.C. and New York City. The survey finds a dramatic increase in the proportion of Catholics expressing highly favorable views of the pontiff. Nearly half (49%) of Catholics say they have a very favorable opinion of the pope, up from 36% in the late March survey, conducted March 24-29. Overall, positive opinions of Pope Benedict among Catholics have risen from 74% to 83%.

Read the full report Pope Benedict's Image Improves Following U.S. Visit on the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life Web site.

For analysis of the press coverage of the pope's U.S. visit, see the accompanying report from the Project for Excellence in Journalism and Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life, During U.S. Papal Visit, Media Focused on the Shepherd and His Flock.

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