“… growing familiarity with Benedict has not translated into higher approval ratings…”

Here is an interesting piece from the nearly ubiquitous John L. Allen, Jr., the former Roman correspondent for the lefty NCR.   Get this.

My emphases.


Benedict XVI’s approval rating in America is 73 percent, poll finds By John L Allen Jr Daily Created Sep 25 2007 – 12:14

New York

Nearly three-quarters of Americans, 73 percent, who say they’re familiar enough with Pope Benedict XVI to offer an opinion have a favorable view of the pontiff, according to a new poll. Benedict scored well not just among Catholics, but also white Evangelicals, black Protestants, and mainline Protestants.

The survey, conducted by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life and released today, offers the pope good news ahead of a projected 2008 visit to the United States.

To a considerable extent, the pope’s popularity crosses the normal American partisan divide. While 84 percent of Americans who describe themselves as conservative Republicans have a favorable view of the pope, 59 percent of self-described liberal Democrats also give Benedict XVI high marks. Benedict scored well among virtually every ideological subgroup, from a 68 percent approval rating among independents to 79 percent approval among conservative and moderate Democrats.

There are several fine points, however, that complicate the picture.

First, Benedict’s approval rating is substantially lower than comparable figures for his predecessor, John Paul II, who was viewed favorably by 86 percent of Americans in a 1996 poll. Benedict XVI also trails John Paul’s 1996 numbers in terms of the percentage of Americans who say they have a “very favorable” impression, at 21 percent for Benedict and 32 percent for John Paul II.

The gap is especially evident among Catholics; while 50 percent of American Catholics had a very favorable view of John Paul in 1996, just 36 percent express that impression of Benedict XVI today.

Second, growing familiarity with Benedict has not translated into higher approval ratings. In 2005, just 55 percent of the American public told Pew Forum pollsters that they knew enough about the pope to offer an opinion, while this time 68 percent volunteered an impression. Yet over that time, Benedict’s approval rating actually dropped from 81 percent to 73 percent, suggesting that some Americans who have come to know the pope over the last two years don’t necessarily like what they see.

Third, a plurality of Americans, 46 percent, say that Benedict XVI is doing only a “fair or poor job” in promoting relationships with other religions, while just 38 percent say he’s doing an “excellent or good” job.

Though the Pew Forum report does not draw the conclusion, that result likely reflects continuing fallout from Benedict XVI’s September 2006 lecture at the University of Regensburg in Bavaria, which sparked protest across the Islamic world when Benedict quoted a 14th century Byzantine Emperor to the effect that Muhammad had “brought things only evil and inhuman.” It may also reflect negative reaction in the Protestant world to a recent Vatican declaration that the Catholic church remains the lone “true church” founded by Jesus Christ.

A solid majority of Americans, 56 percent, describe Benedict XVI as “conservative" and just 5 percent see him as "liberal." Among college graduates, fully 71 percent say the pope is “conservative.” Likewise, 68 percent of American Catholics describe the pope as "conservative."


I once asked Joseph Card. Ratzinger how he dealt with all the negative press all the time.  He responded that if he didn’t read something awful about himself every week, he’d have to examine his conscience.

Pope Benedict has been applying needed medicine to some sick sectors of the Church.  As as St. Augustine described many centuries ago, "The doctor doesn’t stop cutting just because his patient is screaming for him to stop."

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. Geri says:

    “Though the Pew Forum report does not draw the conclusion, that result likely reflects continuing fallout from …. It may also reflect negative reaction… ”

    It may also reflect the dissappoint a five year old feels when, caught by Mom doing something he oughtn’t, and seeking approval from Dad, finds out that both adults are on the same page…
    “Daddy’s mean!

    Is anyone actually either surprised or dismayed to learn that out-going extroverts make stronger impressions on others than retiring introverts?
    This is Allen’s contribution to the “Surprise! Pope is Catholic” headlines…

    (Save the Liturgy, Save the World)

  2. Chris says:

    “Truth is not decided by a majority vote.”– Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger
    Its interesting to look at his approval/disapproval ratings, but it really only matters if he is guided by the Holy Ghost. Like you said he is applying badly needed medicine to sick sectors of the Church. God bless him.

  3. Jim says:

    Why are these polls given any credence at all? Is the Holy Faith dependent on polls? How would St. Paul have done had the Pew Forum been around in his day?

  4. danphunter1 says:

    Great quote fom His Holiness,”if I didn’t read something awful about myself every week,I’d have to examine my conscience.”
    How true!
    God bless our AWESOME Supreme Pontiff.

  5. Chironomo says:

    I guess it was fairly hard for Mr. Allen to find something negative in such good numbers, so the idea that “he hasn’t improved as much as he should have” will have to do for him! I want to know who were the 5 percent that thought he was liberal? THAT is a number that seems higher than it ought to be! Secondly, is it really the role of the Pontiff to be popular? And I have a feeling that the remark concerning “relationships with other religions” is somehow tied to the release this summer of the statement on the meaning of “subsists in”… as though the purpose of the pontiff is to improve relations with other faiths by becoming more like them! LOL is right…

  6. DoB says:

    Given he has been Pope for such a short while,( JPII had nearly 2 decades on him) I think he is doing very well. So many non-Catholics have come up to me and said that they were so relieved after Ragensburg. They said he was the only world leader to come out and say the truth. There was a national sigh of relief over here. People started laughing at the crazy reactions instead of feeling intimidated. I witnessed this myself at the tv shop, when break-things-up-and-burn-billys were filmed rampaging around some sand dune or other at the time. We could all see it for what it was. Not only that, muslims and their leaders began to become embarrased at the behaviours being shown. I do not know what Allen is talking about. Ragensburg was a watershed of immence value to the world.

    I knew nothing of Ratzinger except bad press before he was elected. I was poisoned by lies. When I read his books I encountered a giant of a man, full of faith. Now I love him. How many people have been poisoned by lies who have not read him. Quite a few I would say. Taking this bias into account I think his poll ratings are fantastic.

  7. Well, I wonder what the numbers were like two years into the pontificate of Pope John Paul II?

    And those numbers say a whole lot more about American Catholics than they do about the Pope!

    Thus the unsurprising reportage from the Nominally Catholic Rag.

  8. Of course we also have to look at those being polled. How many of these people either know their own faith and actually practice it conciously (not just apatheticaly go to Mass once a week and plop a check into the collection basket) if they are Catholics, or make an effort to understand the Catholic position if they are not Catholics?

    It’s sort of like polling people who just watch football games, but don’t really get into the strategy or player stats, and they are asked about their feelings about a coach in a city other than the one they live in.

    Polls can easily be skewed though, so I’m not sure why anyone puts much weight in them nowadays.

    I do love what Cardinal Ratzinger said about what he would do if he didn’t see anything critical about him. Gotta love him!

  9. chris K says:

    Wait a minute…1996 as a fair comparison year?? As I remember the early years of JPII were those with fears as well from every corner that he was a strict, mean, ultra conservative who was ready to lower the hammer any moment. And by 1996 there was also a combination of a sympathy vote as well as the feeling by liberals that, due to his physical weakening he wouldn’t be able to do as much as they feared.

  10. Jonathan Bennett says:

    Lets hope His Holiness does something about these bishops in Connecticut who just approved the Morning-After pill…

  11. RichR says:

    the only time in the bible a public opinion poll, the verdict came back:


    As far as the quote from Ratzinger in Fr. Z’s post, I say, “Way to go!”

  12. Rose says:

    I think Mr. Allen would know how good those ratings really are, considering that he himself had quite a lot to do with the negative press in America that Pope Benedicct had to overcome from the days when Allen described him as the Vatican Enforcer!! I also think that Americans have a particularly soft spot for Pope John Paul II as the “slayer of Communism”. They revere Ronald Reagan and Pope John Paul II in the same strain.

  13. Whatever these numbers do or do not mean, many are saying that Benedict is getting larger numbers for his audiences than his predecessor–and these numbers continued after what was thought to be merely a first year bump. Moreover, some observers have commented that the folks at the audience are much more attentive to Benedict than they were to JPII.

    So, by that measure, assuming the observations are true, Benedict is doing better. Somehow, though, I doubt he’s competing with John Paul.

  14. JohnK says:

    Might we ask Mr. Allen what Christ’s approval rating was like on the day he was sentenced to death?

  15. ALEX1 says:

    John Allen’s books had as much to do with Cardinal Ratzinger’s distorted image as anything published by more objective reporters. Our Holy Father continues to teach the truth, despite the relativism of the American media.

    Viva Il Papa!!

  16. michigancatholic says:

    John Allen is biased as heck. Always has been. On the rare occasions when I read something he has written, I take his opinion with a grain of salt. I don’t believe I’ve ever missed anything of any consequence as a result, either.

    I think this article he’s written is just sour grapes. His gang still hasn’t gotten over the election of Pope Benedict. Apparently they thought their moronic dissenting ideas had some chance of getting somewhere because of all the effort they’ve exerted trying to shove them off on us. Amazing that they would actually think that’s how any of this actually works.

  17. michigancatholic says:

    Besides, is John Allen actually trying to say that 73% positive is low? For instance, would John Allen think that 73% positive would be low for his own positive rating? What exactly is he trying to say, if not? I mean, what is his point exactly? And where does he get off talking about a necessity for positive ratings with respect to the pope? Who does he think he is anyway?

    John Allen needs a reality check. His enthusiasm for the rag that employs him is affecting his reason.

  18. I am closing this down. People have chosen to launch personal attacks on John Allen rather than focus more on the data.

    Frankly, I found the polling results to be very interesting. They should merely be taken as the results of a poll, nothing more. They just aren’t that important. But they are interesting.

    Also, I know John Allen quite well from his years in Rome. I think he was the best working journalist in Rome in his last couple years there. I found his approach to issues both insightful and his writing pretty much objective. He would report facts and identify his own opinions as such. I say this especially in light of the fact that he had to write the NCR.

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