They called it the "Benedict bounce", when Pope Benedict's visit to the UK prompted an upsurge of goodwilltowards the Catholic Church. Now in the United States, new research shows a similar result following the current Pope's recent visit there. The "Francis factor" has struck again.
According to a Pew Research Center survey, Pope Francis has generated goodwill towards the Catholic Church across the political spectrum. Liberals, moderates and Democrats are especially likely to say Francis has given them a more positive view of the Church.
More than a quarter of adults in the US have a more positive view of the Church because of Pope Francis. Nearly six-in-ten have not change their minds much.
Both Catholics and non-Catholics are more likely to say that Francis has had a positive rather than negative impact on their view of the Church.
However there is a clear divide between Democrats and Republicans. Just 27 per cent of Republicans say Pope Francis has positively affected their view of the Church while 10 per cent have a more negative view. Among Democrts, 35 per cent have a more positive view while just 2 per cent have been influenced more against the Church by the present Pope.
The Pope's personal favourability rating is at 68 per cent, up slightly since June, before the visit, when it was at 64 per cent. In February this year it was as high as 70 per cent.
This overall drop in his personal favourability rating possibly reflects the greater understanding that is emerging of his views. Many Republicans oppose his strong views on poverty and the environment, finding him to be too left-wing for their tastes. Many Democrats, on the other hand, find his conservative moral teaching on issues such as contraception, marriage and homosexuality to be objectionable. In both these areas, however, the Pope stands firmly within orthodox Catholic thought.
It is among non-Catholics that the recent improvement in Francis' favourability rating occurred. Roughly two-thirds of non-Catholics now express a favorable view of Pope Francis, up 7 percentage points since June. Among Catholics it went the other way. Eight-in-ten Catholics surveyed now say they have a favorable view of Pope Francis compared to 86 per cent in June.
Pew Research says Francis' declining favorability rating among Catholics is mainly due to the changing views of regular Mass-goers.