Catholic social researchers, however, say that Pope Francis may not be significantly more popular than his predecessor, Benedict XVI.
“Generally, popes have had approval ratings among Americans (Catholic or not) that are higher than that of U.S. presidents,” explained Mark M. Gray, senior research associate at the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate at Georgetown University.
“It's a bit of a honeymoon period,” Gray told CNA on April 8.
On April 3, the Pew Research Center released the results of a poll of Americans, showing that Pope Francis was viewed favorably. The study showed that more than 84 percent of American Catholics and 57 percent of Americans in general rated Pope Francis “favorably.”
These numbers contrast the ratings of Pope Benedict XVI, whose highest rating from U.S. Catholics was 83 percent following his visit to the United States in 2008, and whose approval among U.S. Catholics upon announcement of his registration in February 2013 was 74 percent.
While there is a difference is their popularity ratings, Gray noted that “there is not as big of a difference as it may seem.”
“Many of these comparisons are based on a small samples size of Catholics,” Gray explained. “Thus one must account for margin of error when looking at the differences between the polls.”
Gray also added that world leaders “often get high poll numbers after they are selected,” and that “news and events will likely determine if they go up or down.”
“As with past popes I'd expect his numbers to stay well above that of a U.S. president,” he said.
Gray also commented on the “positive response” elicited by the Pope’s actions. “I think his very simple or even humble leadership style is attractive to many.”
“Also the fact that he is the first pope from the Americas and a Jesuit also likely create positive reactions,” Gray noted.
According to the poll, only 5 of U.S. Catholics view of Pope Francis unfavorably.
A recent poll conducted by the Pew Research Center reveals that a majority of Americans, including Catholics, have a largely favorable view of the new Pope.
Benedict XVI, Pope Francis