Benedict XVI leaves as popular Pope, but no John Paul II

Pope Benedict XVI steps down with an uptick in personal popularity and wide support for his decision to retire, according … Continued

Pope Benedict XVI steps down with an uptick in personal popularity and wide support for his decision to retire, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll. But Benedict leaves his position less well-liked than his predecessor or the Roman Catholic Church overall, a sign that his own brand failed to take flight as did Pope John Paul II’s.

About three-quarters of Catholics (76 percent) and a smaller majority of all Americans (54 percent) view Benedict favorably, both numbers up slightly from a 2008 survey. Only 14 percent of Catholics and 27 percent of the overall public rates the pontiff unfavorably.

While positive, Benedict’s ratings stand 13 points below those of John Paul II during his final month as pope, when 67 percent of Americans and 87 percent of Catholics saw him favorably. Among non-Catholics, Benedict’s ratings are 14 points lower than his predecessor.

Benedict also receives fewer positive marks than the Catholic Church itself, which is seen favorably by 62 percent of Americans. John Paul II, by contrast, was more popular than the church he led.

Benedict’s tenure has been dogged by long-running criticism of the way the Catholic Church dealt with allegations of sexual abuse by priests. In 2008, more than seven in 10 Americans in a Post-ABC poll — including Catholics — disapproved of the church’s handling of the issue.

In the new poll, more than six in 10 (64 percent) see Benedict’s decision to step down in a favorable light, while just 23 percent view it unfavorably. But the sentiment appears more well-wishing than not: Two-thirds of those endorsing his retirement also report positive ratings of the pope himself.


View Photo Gallery: Pope Benedict XVI said Monday that he will resign at the end of February because he no longer has the strength to fulfill the duties of his office.

The Post-ABC poll was conducted Feb. 13-17 among a random national sample of 1,006 adults. The margin of sampling error for the full survey is plus or minus 3.5 percentage points. Click here to see question wording, results and interactive breakdowns.

Clement and Craighill are pollsters with Capital Insight, the independent polling group of Washington Post Media. Jon Cohen, director of polling at Capital Insight, contributed to this report.

  • HELLO

    Do the people really know Pope Benedict or his time as cardinal and bishop? There is much to know of the RCC’s administration past and present.

  • Annie Jeffries

    Holy Father’s Catholicism is not a “brand”. I pretty much checked out after reading that. I knew he was popular and why without your poll of his “brand”.

  • leibowde84

    I am so relieved that this Pope has quit. He was old-fashioned and detrimental to the church in many ways including his career before the papacy. I couldn’t be happier that he decided to call it quits. And, I don’t know where this article is getting its info from, but, where I live and in my church, the pope was hated by many.

  • leibowde84

    I am so relieved that this Pope has quit. He was old-fashioned and detrimental to the church in many ways including his career before the papacy. I couldn’t be happier that he decided to call it quits. And, I don’t know where this article is getting its info from, but, where I live and in my church, the pope was hated by many.

  • plattitudes

    I find it interesting that the writer neglects to mention the other half of what the poll shows: the general opinion of the Church he led INCREASED over his tenure. But hey, that’s a positive note, and certain colors of journalism would refuse to print such.

  • patriot1

    Are you a regular church goer? Why was he disliked?

  • MisterH

    Chances are he was hated for being Catholic!

  • Watcher1

    What color is the sky in your world?

  • Watcher1

    They’re Catholics, they only know what the Church tells them.

  • HELLO

    Watcher1, not all RCs believe in all that the RCC administration says. As time goes on, the truth will come out for much takes place that still is not known by ” Catholics ” and the general public.

  • plattitudes

    The same color it is in yours.

    Honestly, can you refute the points?
    a) the data upon which the article is based, and the graphs display two main points: a decline in the favorable view of the Pope, and an increase in the favorable view of the Catholic Church.

    b) the writer mentions only one point, and ignores the other in favor of a tangent out to another poll regarding opinion of the Pope’s actions (abuse coverup, stepping down, etc.)

    I simply think it’s interesting that a man who apparently did more for the image of the organization he led than for self-aggrandizement is derided for not better pushing his own brand like we expect from actors/musicians/politicians.

  • leibowde84

    I think he was a terrible catholic who is stuck on out-of-date doctrine and was guilty of putting pedophile priests back in dangerous situations without calling the police to arrest them. Putting the mass back in latin … come on!!! His parents were Nazis, and he thought that following the laws of the church is more important than helping the poor. When nuns spoke out against the church’s stance on homosexuality/contraception, they were punished. Vatican II made a lot of progress that this pope didn’t like.

  • leibowde84

    Long story short … we are in desperate need of another progressive Pope who will actually address the problems with out-of-date doctrine instead of relying completely on “the word of God.”

    Plus, he’s a quitter … and nobody likes a quitter.

  • flagdoc

    It’s pretty obvious you’re a secular non-church goer. Catholics adhere to a faith, not hate. Most people would step away from a church if they ‘hated’ its leader so much. Haters like you are not genuine Catholics or Christians. Thanks for being so transparent.

  • flagdoc

    76% is very unpopular, huh?

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