WASHINGTON, April 3 (UPI) -- Pope Francis starts his papacy with overwhelming support from U.S. Catholics, a poll released Wednesday indicates.
A Pew Research Poll found 84 percent of U.S. Catholics surveyed say they have a favorable impression of the new pontiff from South America, including 43 percent expressing a very favorable view. Five percent have an unfavorable view and 11 percent had yet to form an opinion, the survey found.
That level of support puts Francis quite a bit ahead of his predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI, who drew a favorable rating from 67 percent of U.S. Catholics in July 2005, early in his papacy. Benedict eventually attained an 83-percent favorable ranking by April 2008, and it stood at 74 percent February after he announced he was retiring.
Fifty-seven percent of Americans overall feel the same way about Francis, the poll indicates, with 29 percent having no yet to form an opinion and 14 percent having an unfavorable opinion of him.
The Pew Research Center conducted its poll of 1,001 Americans by telephone March 28-31. The poll's margin of error was 3.7 percentage points for its entire sample and 8.5 percentage points for smaller samples of Catholics surveyed.