Catholics Divided on Possible Resignation of Pope

by David W. Moore

62% of Catholics say pope's positions on issues are "about right"

GALLUP NEWS SERVICE

PRINCETON, NJ -- In the wake of Pope John Paul II's continued sickness, a new CNN/USA Today/Gallup survey finds a slight majority of Catholics, 51%, saying the pope should remain in office until he dies, while 43% think he should resign now because of health reasons.

The pope is currently recovering from a throat operation, his second stay in the hospital this year. On Feb. 1 he was rushed to the hospital with breathing problems, but was let out 10 days later. He returned to the same hospital on Feb. 24. The pope has referred to this hospital as Vatican Three, because he has spent the most time there other than at the Vatican Palace and his summer retreat south of Rome.

Because of recurrent health problems, the question about the pope's possibly resigning has been asked of Catholics three times previous to this survey -- twice in 2002 and once in 2003. In 2002, a clear majority said he should stay in office until death, while in 2003 Catholics were evenly divided.

Opinion of Pope John Paul II

Catholics have a highly positive view of the pope. Overall, 93% of Catholics say they have a favorable opinion, while just 4% say unfavorable. Even non-Catholics are mostly positive, by a 73% to 14% margin.

 

 

Favorable

Unfavorable

Never heard of

No opinion

 

%

%

%

%

Catholics

       

2005 Feb 25-27

93

4

*

3

2003 Oct 6-8

88

9

1

2

2002 Apr 29-May 1

78

17

1

4

Non-Catholics

       

2005 Feb 25-27

73

14

2

11

2003 Oct 6-8

68

20

2

10

2002 Apr 29-May 1

57

28

2

12

* Less than 0.5%

Most Catholics, 64%, also think the pope rates as either a "great" world leader or "one of the greatest" world leaders in their lifetimes. Another 22% say he is "good," while just 13% think of him as either average (10%) or below average (3%).

Non-Catholics are not as positive, but still 35% say he is at least a "great" world leader, and another 33% say good. Just 20% say he is average and 5% say below average.

Thinking about some of the prominent world leaders during your lifetime, how do you think Pope John Paul II rates -- as -- one of the greatest, great, but not one of the greatest, good, average, or below average?

 

 

One of the greatest

Great, not one of the greatest




Good




Average



Below average



No opinion

Catholics

%

%

%

%

%

%

2005 Feb 25-27

38

26

22

10

3

1

Non-Catholics

           

2005 Feb 25-27

17

18

33

20

5

7

Catholics have become more positive about the pope's positions on issues than they were in 1987 and again in 2003. Currently, a clear majority believes his positions are "about right," while 33% say his positions are too conservative. In October 2003, only 49% of Catholics said his positions were about right, and 38% said too conservative.

Not surprisingly, most Catholics say the selection of a new pope would matter to them -- 44% say a "great deal," and another 30% say a "moderate amount." Only a quarter of Catholics say it wouldn't matter much or at all to them who the next pope will be.

How much will it matter to you who the Catholic Church chooses as the next pope when the time comes to do so -- a great deal, a moderate amount, not much, or not at all?

 

 

Great
deal

Moderate
amount


Not much


Not at all

No
opinion

Catholics

%

%

%

%

%

2005 Feb 25-27

44

30

17

8

1

Non-Catholics

         

2005 Feb 25-27

7

16

34

41

2

Whom the Catholic Church chooses as its next pope matters a great deal or moderate amount to 23% of non-Catholics as well.

Survey Methods

Results in the current survey are based on telephone interviews with 1,008 national adults, aged 18 and older, conducted Feb. 25-27, 2005. For results based on the total sample of national adults, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum margin of sampling error is ±3 percentage points. For results based on the sample of 241 Catholics, the maximum margin of sampling error is ±7 percentage points. For results based on the sample of 767 non-Catholics, the maximum margin of sampling error is ±4 percentage points. In addition to sampling error, question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of public opinion polls.

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