WASHINGTON, Sept. 12 (UPI) -- Pope Francis remains popular with U.S. Catholics six months after his election, a poll released Thursday indicated.
The Pew Research Religion and Public Life Project reported 79 percent of respondents said they have a favorable view of the pope, 17 percent had no opinion or were not sure and 4 percent said their view of him is unfavorable. About 60 percent of U.S. residents said they have a favorable view of the pope.
The views of both Catholics and all U.S. residents have changed little since Francis was elected in March to succeed Pope Benedict XVI, the first pope in centuries to retire.
While Francis is popular with all Catholics, his standing is higher among those who attend church at least once a week, with 86 percent saying they view him favorably. Only 74 percent of less observant Catholics have a favorable view, with a higher percentage saying they have no opinion.
Francis is slightly more popular with older Catholics, who are more likely to say they have a very favorable view.
Benedict's standing in the United States was at its high point in April 2008, just after he visited the country. At that time, 83 percent of Catholics viewed him favorably.
Pope John Paul II, who served from 1978 to 2005, was overwhelmingly popular with Catholics in the 1980s and 1990s. Polls during those decades showed nine in 10 Catholics viewed him favorably.
Francis, the first pope from South America, lives more modestly than his predecessors, choosing smaller living quarters in the Vatican. He has surprised people who wrote him letters by calling them personally to discuss the difficulties in their lives.
On one controversial issue, Francis has taken what appears to be a more moderate stance.
"If someone is gay and he searches for the Lord and has good will, who am I to judge?" he told reporters in July as he flew back from World Youth Day in Brazil.
Princeton Survey Research Associates International interviewed 1,506 adults by telephone Sept. 4-8. The margin of error is 2.9 percentage points for the entire sample, 6 points for Catholics and higher for subgroups of Catholics.