American Catholics Revere Pope, Disagree With Some Major Teachings

by David W. Moore

Seven in 10 expect church to make Pope John Paul II a saint

GALLUP NEWS SERVICE

PRINCETON, NJ -- With the death of Pope John Paul II, most American Catholics believe that history will judge him favorably -- either as a great pope, or even one of the greatest ever. Seven in 10 predict the Catholic Church will make him a saint. Most American Catholics also say the choice of the next pope will matter to them personally, and also to the world. But American Catholics seem not to care where the next pope comes from -- they are equally willing to have him come from Africa, Asia, or Latin America.

As for the future, many Catholics appear to disagree with church teachings in several areas -- use of birth control, allowing priests to marry, making church doctrine less strict on stem cell research, and allowing women to become priests. The poll shows that a majority of Catholics support each of those policies, while Pope John Paul II was adamantly against all of them. About half of American Catholics also would allow Catholics to remarry after a divorce, without getting an annulment. And more than a third would like to make church doctrine less strict on abortion.

The poll, conducted April 1-2, shows that almost 9 in 10 American Catholics believe Pope John Paul II will go down in history as either a "great" pope (21%) or one of the greatest popes ever (67%).

How do you think Pope John Paul II will go down in history -- as -- one of the greatest popes, 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 Apr 1-2

67%

21

7

2

1

2

Seventy-one percent believe the church will make him a saint, up from 51% who felt that way in October 2003.

Do you think Pope John Paul II will -- or will not -- be made a saint by the Catholic Church?

 

 

Yes, will

No, will not

No opinion

Catholics      

2005 Apr 1-2

71%

18

11

2003 Oct 10-12

51%

39

10

About 9 in 10 Catholics also believe that it will matter to the world either a great deal (55%) or a moderate amount (34%) whom the church chooses as its next pope. Even three-quarters of non-Catholics believe the choice will matter to the world.

Just your best guess, how much will it matter to the world whom the Catholic Church chooses as the next pope -- 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 Apr 1-2

55%

34

7

4

--

           

Non-Catholics

         

2005 Apr 1-2

41%

35

14

8

2

Americans are less likely to say the choice of the new pope will matter to them personally than to say it will matter to the world, though it will matter personally to a clear majority (65%) of Catholics. Not surprisingly, among non-Catholics, only 23% say the choice will matter to them, while 76% say it will not.

How much will it matter to you who the Catholic Church chooses as the next pope -- 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 Apr 1-2

36

29

16

19

*

2005 Feb 25-27 ^

44

30

17

8

1

           

Non-Catholics

         

2005 Apr 1-2

8

15

19

57

1

2005 Feb 25-27 ^

7

16

34

41

2

           

* Less than 0.5%

^ WORDING: 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?

One of the themes many Catholic observers articulated on television during the final days of Pope John Paul II's life was the inspiration Catholics received from the pope's suffering. The poll shows that about half of all Catholics, but 68% of Catholics who attend church weekly, found inspiration in the way Pope John Paul II handled his health problems.

Would you say you have found inspiration in the way Pope John Paul II has handled his health problems, or has it not affected you, personally, that strongly?

 

 

Found
inspiration

Not affected
that strongly

No
opinion

Catholics

     

All

51%

48

1

Weekly churchgoers

68%

32

0

As for the future pope, about 8 in 10 Catholics say it is acceptable for him to come from Latin America, Africa, or Asia.

Would you find it acceptable or unacceptable if the College of Cardinals chose the next pope from one of the following areas? How about [RANDOM ORDER]?

 

2005 Apr 1-2
(sorted by "acceptable")

Catholics

Acceptable

Unacceptable

No
opinion

Latin America

85%

12

3

Africa

80%

17

3

Asia

78%

19

3

About a third of all Catholics (including a third among weekly churchgoers) would also like the new pope to be more liberal than Pope John Paul II, while about 6 in 10 think the new pope should be about the same.

If you had to choose, do you think the College of Cardinals should select as the next pope someone who is -- [ROTATED: more conservative than John Paul II, about the same, or more liberal than John Paul II]?

 

 

More conservative

About
the same

More
liberal

No
opinion

Catholics

       

All

4%

59

34

3

Weekly churchgoers

1%

64

33

2

Although only a third of Catholics say they want the new pope to be more liberal than Pope John Paul II, clear majorities say they want the new pope to adopt policies that were clearly unacceptable to Pope John Paul II. Among all Catholics, 78% support allowing Catholics to use birth control, 63% allowing priests to marry, 59% making church doctrine on stem cell research less strict, and 55% allowing women to become priests.

Do you think the next pope should -- or should not -- [RANDOM ORDER]?

BASED ON 254 CATHOLICS

 

2005 Apr 1-2
(sorted by "yes, should")

Yes, should

No,
should not

No
opinion

%

%

%

Allow Catholics to use birth control

78

21

1

Allow priests to marry

63

36

1

Make church doctrine on stem cell research less strict

59

36

5

Allow women to become priests

55

44

1

Allow Catholics to divorce and remarry without getting an annulment

49

48

3

Make church doctrine on abortion less strict

37

59

4

In addition, Catholics are evenly divided on allowing members of their faith to remarry after a divorce without getting an annulment, and 37% support making church doctrine on abortion less strict.

Only about half of all people who identify as Catholics say they attend church on a weekly basis, who -- for purposes of comparison -- are classified here as "practicing Catholics." Even among this group, large numbers support changes in church doctrine that Pope John Paul II opposed and that are likely to be opposed by any new pope.

Do you think the next pope should -- or should not -- [RANDOM ORDER]?

BASED ON 101 CATHOLICS WHO ATTEND CHURCH WEEKLY

 

2005 Apr 1-2
(sorted by "yes, should")

Yes, should

No,
should not

No
opinion

%

%

%

Allow Catholics to use birth control

68

29

3

Allow priests to marry

48

52

0

Make church doctrine on stem cell research less strict

46

48

6

Allow women to become priests

44

56

0

Allow Catholics to divorce and remarry without getting an annulment

37

63

0

Make church doctrine on abortion less strict

29

69

2

Survey Methods

Results in the current survey are based on telephone interviews with 1,040 national adults, aged 18 and older, conducted April 1-2, 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 786 non-Catholics, the maximum margin of sampling error is ±4 percentage points.

For results based on the sample of 254 Catholics, the maximum margin of sampling error is ±7 percentage points.

For results based on the sample of 101 Catholics who attend church weekly, the maximum margin of sampling error is ±11 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.

32. How much will it matter to you who the Catholic Church chooses as the next pope -- a great deal, a moderate amount, not much, or not at all?

 

 

Great
deal

Moderate
amount

Not much


Not at all

No
opinion

National Adults

%

%

%

%

%

2005 Apr 1-2

15

19

18

47

1

2005 Feb 25-27 ^

16

19

30

33

2

           

Catholics

         

2005 Apr 1-2

36

29

16

19

*

2005 Feb 25-27 ^

44

30

17

8

1

           

Non-Catholics

         

2005 Apr 1-2

8

15

19

57

1

2005 Feb 25-27 ^

7

16

34

41

2

           

* Less than 0.5%

^ WORDING: 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?

33. Just your best guess, how much will it matter to the world whom the Catholic Church chooses as the next pope -- a great deal, a moderate amount, not much, or not at all?

 

 

Great
deal

Moderate
amount

Not much

Not at all

No
opinion

National Adults

%

%

%

%

%

2005 Apr 1-2

45

34

12

7

2

           

Catholics

         

2005 Apr 1-2

55

34

7

4

--

           

Non-Catholics

         

2005 Apr 1-2

41

35

14

8

2

33A. Do you think Pope John Paul II will -- or will not -- be made a saint by the Catholic Church?

BASED ON 254 CATHOLICS

 

 

Yes, will

No, will not

No opinion

Catholics

     

2005 Apr 1-2

71%

18

11

       

2003 Oct 10-12

51%

39

10

34. Would you say you have found inspiration in the way Pope John Paul II has handled his health problems, or has it not affected you, personally, that strongly?

BASED ON 254 CATHOLICS

 

 

Found
inspiration

Not affected
that strongly

No
opinion

Catholics

     

2005 Apr 1-2

51%

48

1

34A. How do you think Pope John Paul II will go down in history -- as -- one of the greatest popes, great, but not one of the greatest, good, average, or below average?

BASED ON 254 CATHOLICS

 

 

One of the
greatest

Great,
not one
of the
greatest

Good

Average

Below
average

No
opinion

Catholics

           

2005 Apr 1-2

67%

21

7

2

1

2

35. If you had to choose, do you think the College of Cardinals should select as the next pope someone who is -- [ROTATED: more conservative than John Paul II, about the same, or more liberal than John Paul II]?

BASED ON 254 CATHOLICS

 

 

More
conservative

About
the same

More
liberal

No
opinion

Catholics

       

2005 Apr 1-2

4%

59

34

3

36. Would you find it acceptable or unacceptable if the College of Cardinals chose the next pope from one of the following areas? How about [RANDOM ORDER]?

BASED ON 254 CATHOLICS

 

2005 Apr 1-2
(sorted by "acceptable")

Acceptable

Unacceptable

No
opinion

%

%

%

Latin America

85

12

3

Africa

80

17

3

Asia

78

19

3

37. Do you think the next pope should -- or should not -- [RANDOM ORDER]?

BASED ON 254 CATHOLICS

 

2005 Apr 1-2
(sorted by "yes, should")

Yes,
should

No,
should not

No
opinion

%

%

%

Allow Catholics to use birth control

78

21

1

Allow priests to marry

63

36

1

Make church doctrine on stem cell research less strict

59

36

5

Allow women to become priests

55

44

1

Allow Catholics to divorce and remarry without getting an annulment

49

48

3

Make church doctrine on abortion less strict

37

59

4

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