NEW HAVEN –– A telephone survey commissioned by the Knights of Columbus found that U.S. Catholics think favorably of Pope Benedict XVI, who retired in February.
The Marist poll, taken March 2-5 — the week after Pope Benedict's Feb. 28 retirement took effect — found that Catholics held favorable impressions of the retired pontiff's tenure, his impact on their lives and the direction of both the church and the world.
In the poll, 77 percent of all U.S. Catholics, and 82 percent of practicing Catholics, said they had ether a "positive" or "very positive" impression of the retired pope's pontificate. Asked about the outgoing pope himself, 69 percent of Catholics and 75 percent of practicing Catholics had a "positive" or "very positive" view of him.
Similarly, 68 percent of Catholics and 77 percent of practicing Catholics said he had a "positive" or "very positive" impact on their life.
Seventy percent of Catholics and 75 percent of practicing Catholics said the pope had a "positive" or "very positive" impact on the church's direction, while 65 percent of Catholics and 69 percent of practicing Catholics said in the poll he had a "positive" or "very positive" impact on the moral direction of the world.
Poll respondents were asked, "Pope Benedict XVI served as pope during the social media age and used Twitter to communicate. Do you like the idea or not like the idea of the pope tweeting to communicate?" In their responses, 67 percent of Catholics and 66 percent of practicing Catholics said they liked the idea, while 25 percent of each group said they did not — the highest negative marks given to any question in the poll.
"The data indicates clearly that American Catholics have a deep respect for Pope Benedict XVI and a great appreciation for his pontificate," said a March 6 statement by Carl Anderson, supreme knight of the Knights of Columbus. "That so many felt he had a positive impact on their lives, their church and their world speaks volumes to the good that he was able to do as pope."
The poll, conducted by the Marist Institute for Public Opinion at Marist College in Poughkeepsie, N.Y., interviewed 2,000 American adults on both land lines and cellphones. Among that number were 515 Catholics. The margin of error for Catholics' answers is plus or minus 4.3 percentage points.