Renee K. Gadoua
Religion News Service

On the eve of Pope Benedict XVI’s first visit to the United States next week, his approval rating among U.S. Catholics is 70 percent, according to a LeMoyne College/Zogby International poll released Wednesday (April 9).
But that still doesn’t top the popularity of his predecessor, John Paul II.
The Contemporary Catholic Trends poll also found that a quarter of U.S. Catholics say the pope has only a little influence on world affairs.

A 70 percent approval shows that a significant majority of respondents believe Benedict is doing a good job leading the church, said Matthew Loveland, a sociologist of religion at Le Moyne who works with the Le Moyne/Zogby poll.
In spring 2003, the poll found that John Paul II had an 87 percent approval rating, and right after his death on April 2, 2005, 90 percent of Catholics said he did a good job, Loveland said.
“People really liked John Paul,” he said.
In fall 2005, Pope Benedict’s approval rating was 75 percent, and in spring 2007, his approval rating reached 86 percent.
“It’s still very high,” Loveland said. “There are very few world leaders who would be complaining about a 70 percent approval. By his very nature he speaks out about controversial issues.”
Several other polls have also focused on the pope’s upcoming visit.
A poll commissioned by the Knights of Columbus and conducted by the Marist College Institute for Public Opinion found that 58 percent of Americans, Catholic and non-Catholic, have a favorable view of the pope.
That compares with 13 percent who have an unfavorable opinion and 17 percent who say they have never heard of him.
A Pew Research Center poll found that 52 percent of Americans (also not exclusively Catholics) have a favorable view of the pope, while 30 percent say they do not know enough about Pope Benedict to offer an opinion.
The LeMoyne/Zogby poll found that 42 percent of Catholics disagree with the church’s position that using artificial birth control is a sin, and 61 percent either strongly or somewhat agree that the Catholic Church should allow women to be ordained as priests.
Copyright 2008 Religion News Service. All rights reserved. No part of this transmission may be distributed or reproduced without written permission.
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