Pope’s Popularity Among Italians Reaches Record High

AP Photo/Bullit Marquez

While Italians express ever lower confidence in their own institutions and political representatives, their opinion of Pope Francis is the highest it has ever been, with 89.6% of Italians agreeing with the statement that the Pope is giving new impetus to the Catholic Church, according to a new report by Eurispes, a major Italian research institute.

The Pope’s popularity seems to be spilling over to the Church itself. The year 2015 marks the first time since 2009 that a majority of Italians have expressed a favorable opinion of the Catholic Church. The Church’s approval rating of 62.6% represents a jump of 13.6 percent over last year’s figure, which built on earlier gains of 12.4 percent during 2013, widely attributed to the “Francis Effect.”

Significantly, the largest gains have been made among young adults, nearly doubling in the course of just a year. For those from 18-24 years old, 51.1 percent now register a positive opinion of the Church, up from just 27.1 percent a year ago. For the age range of 25-34 years, the Church’s approval rating rose from 34.3 percent to 53.5 percent in the same time period.

Meanwhile, regarding Italian politics, the Eurispes report suggests widespread resignation regarding hopes for politically driven change. Two days ago Judge Sergio Mattarella was elected as the new Italian president, succeeding Giorgio Napoletano, who resigned earlier this month for age issues. Nonetheless, only 43.4 percent of citizens believe that the change in the presidency will bring about any real change in the Italian situation.

The general confidence level in the Italian government is lower still, languishing at just 18.9 percent. Taken alone, the Italian Parliament is the most distrusted institution, with a reported confidence level among Italians of only 10.1 percent, a decrease of 6 percent compared to 2014. The judiciary’s confidence rating is somewhat higher at 28.8 percent, but this figure also reflects a significant drop of 12.6 percent relative to a year ago.

This new study corroborates the findings of the Pew Research Center, which reported that Italians consider themselves the “least trustworthy” of any country in the European Union.

Follow Thomas D. Williams on Twitter @tdwilliamsrome.