A new report by the Pew Research Center shows Pope Francis enjoying broad popularity throughout the world, with a median approval rating of 60 percent across 43 nations surveyed.
The report was released Thursday and offers a global view of opinions of the Pontiff, ranging from a low of 25% approval in the Middle East to an 84% favorable rating in Europe. Curiously, his native Latin America rates him slightly lower, with 72% expressing approval of the Pope, though his disapproval rating is also lowest here at only 8%.
In the United States, Francis enjoys a healthy 78% approval rating, which dwarfs President Obama’s favorable rating of only 39% by a ratio of two to one. Francis is seen unfavorably by 11% of Americans, as compared to Obama’s 52% disapproval rating.
Among Catholics Pope Francis is more popular still, with approval reaching near unanimity among the faithful in countries such as the Philippines (95%), Poland (95%), Italy (97%) and the papal homeland of Argentina (98%). American Catholics, too, are overwhelmingly pro-Francis, and 93% said they approve of him.
The country with the biggest gap between Catholics and non-Catholics in the way Francis is appraised was Mexico, where 86% of Catholics gave him a favorable rating while only 23% of non-Catholics share that positive opinion, yielding a 63% difference. In the United States, the difference between Catholics and non-Catholics was only 19%, with 74% of non-Catholics saying they approve of him.
In certain parts of the world the Pope seems relatively unknown, or at least he incites little reaction one way or the other. In the Palestinian Territories, for instance, only 14% said they approve of the Pope, yet only 23% say they disapprove, with a whopping 63% giving him no rating at all. A similar pattern occurs in certain countries with low Catholic populations, such as Senegal, India, Tunisia, and Indonesia.
Middle Eastern countries offered disparate assessments of Francis, depending in part on the Catholic population. In Lebanon, for example, which is a quarter Catholic, Francis was seen favorably by 62% of the people. The pope receives his strongest negative ratings in heavily Muslim countries such as Egypt (35% unfavorable), Jordan (34%) and Turkey (32%).
In Israel half the population approve of Francis, while the remaining 50% are evenly split between those disapproving and those giving no rating.
Thursday’s report reflects findings from two surveys by the Pew Research Center, the first conducted from October 30, 2013 to March 4, 2014, in nine Latin American countries, and the second from March 17 to June 5, 2014, in 34 other countries.
Follow Thomas D. Williams on Twitter @tdwilliamsrome