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By Daniel Burke
Religion News Service

After Pope Benedict XVI’s first papal visit to the U.S. last month, about 60 percent of Americans now report favorable views of the pontiff, a modest bump from pre-trip opinions, according to new polls.
Before his April 15-20 visit to Washington, D.C. and New York, the German-born pope was largely unknown in the U.S. three years after his election.
In March, more than 80 percent of Americans had said they heard little or nothing about him, according to a survey conducted by the Pew Research Center for People & the Press and the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life.
After Benedict met with President Bush, celebrated public Masses before huge crowds and repeatedly spoke of the pain and shame caused by his church’s sexual abuse scandal, his “approval ratings” increased.
Sixty-one percent of Americans now say they hold a favorable or very favorable view of the pope, up from 52 percent before the trip. More than half of Americans now say the pope does an excellent or good job of promoting relations with other faiths, up from 39 percent in March.
Almost 40 percent say Benedict did an excellent or good job of addressing the sex abuse scandal, but there are no pre-visit comparison numbers. Forty-eight percent say the pope did a fair or poor job of addressing the scandal.
Roughly 40 percent of Americans said the most meaningful part of Benedict’s visit for them was his meeting with survivors of clergy sexual abuse, according to a separate poll conducted by Marist College in Poughkeepsie, N.Y.
Following that, 14 percent picked the pope’s visit to the site of the 9/11 attacks in New York City as most meaningful, according to the poll, which was commissioned by the Knights of Columbus.
The margin of error on the Pew poll was plus or minus 3.5 percentage points. For the Marist poll, the margin of error was 3.1 percentage points.
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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