On Eve of Visit, Pope Benedict Still Unknown to Many Americans

Two weeks before his first visit to the United States as spiritual leader of the Catholic Church, Pope Benedict XVI continues to be viewed favorably by a majority (52%) of Americans, which is virtually unchanged from August 2007 (50%). However, the pope remains unfamiliar to a relatively large number of Americans: Three-in-ten say they do not know enough about Pope Benedict to offer an opinion, which also has not changed much since last summer (32%).

Among American Catholics, the pope is, not surprisingly, better known and viewed more favorably than among the general public. Nearly three-quarters (74%) of Catholics in the United States view their religious leader positively, which also has not changed since August 2007.

However, the current pontiff continues to be less highly regarded than his predecessor, Pope John Paul II. Favorable opinions of Pope John Paul II consistently outnumbered unfavorable views by much wider margins than is the case for Pope Benedict XVI.

The latest national survey by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press and the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life, conducted March 24-29 among 1,001 Americans, finds that as Pope Benedict completes his third year as spiritual leader of the world's Catholics, he gets mixed ratings for his efforts to promote good relations between the Catholic Church and other major religions.

Read the full report On Eve of Visit, Pope Benedict Still Unknown to Many Americans on the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life Web site.

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