The Pew Research Center has released new data showing that Pope Francis is still very popular among the American people, with 70% viewing him favorably.  That matches his previous peak of 70% in February 2015.  Francis has been on an upward climb since he began his papacy in March of 2013, when his favorability rating stood at 57%.

Francis remains even more popular among U.S. Catholics, with 87 percent viewing him favorably in the most recent survey. That compares favorably with Pope Benedict XVI (who peaked at 83 percent in 2008) and is reasonably competitive with Pope John Paul II (who peaked at 93% in both 1990 and 1996).

Digging more deeply into the data produced a couple of interesting nuggets.  The most recent survey saw the pope’s unfavorability among both Evangelical Protestants and Mainline Protestants reach historic highs of 31% and 14% respectively.  Theological differences?  Or, in the wake of a racially polarized election campaign in the U.S., is this largely white population reacting negatively to Francis’ strong defense of immigrants and refugees?

Since this was the first Pew poll since the release of Amoris Laetitia, I was curious whether the increasingly rancorous debate between AL’s supporters and critics was trickling down to the pews.  The nice folks at Pew were gracious enough to provide me with crosstabs by frequency of Mass attendance.  Since those who attend Mass more frequently tend to be slightly more theologically conservative, I was expecting any falloff in support for Francis to show up there.

If there is an impact from the Amoris Laetitia debate, it is pretty muted.  Francis’ favorability among weekly Mass-goers stands at a healthy 84%, right where it was in October 2015.  The share of this population who view the pope unfavorably, did increase from 5% to 11% during this period.

All in all, however, I suspect that leaders of countries and institutions around the world would give their proverbial eye teeth to have favorability numbers this good, particularly this guy.

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