Religion & Liberty Online

How American Catholics View Pope Francis and Global Warming

pope-francis-0616Since Pope Francis will be addressing climate change later this week the Pew Research Center has released a survey showing what American Catholics think about both the pontiff and global warming.

Not surprisingly, the survey found that global warming is a “highly politicized issue that sharply divides American Catholics, like the U.S. public as a whole, mainly along political party lines.”

About seven-in-ten U.S. Catholics (71 percent) believe the planet is getting warmer, and nearly half (47 percent) attribute it to human causes. A similar share (48 percent) consider global warming to be a very serious problem.

Catholic Democrats are much more likely (85 percent) to say there is solid evidence that Earth is warming, compared with just half of Catholic Republicans (51 percent). And while six-in-ten Catholic Democrats say global warming is a man-made phenomenon and that it poses a very serious problem, only about a quarter of Catholic Republicans agree.

Generally speaking, the survey notes, Catholics express higher levels of belief in global warming and concern about its effects than do Protestants, but lower levels than people who are religiously unaffiliated (atheists, agnostics and those whose religion is “nothing in particular”).

A much greater consensus is shared on Pope Francis: Fully 86 percent of Catholics say they view Francis favorably while only 4 percent view him unfavorably, and nearly seven-in-ten (69 percent) say he represents a major change for the better for the Catholic Church.

Roughly nine-in-ten or more say Francis is “compassionate,” “humble” and “open-minded.” About one-in-five Catholics (19 percent) describe him as “too liberal,” while one-in-seven (15 percent) consider him “naïve” and one-in-ten (11 percent) think he is “out of touch.”

Francis was rated either “excellent” or “good” ratings on a wide range of responsibilities, including addressing the needs and concerns of the poor, promoting good relations between major religions, addressing the sex abuse scandal. Only 53 percent of Catholics give the pope a favorable rating for his work addressing environmental issues.

Additionally, more Catholic women than men say they view the pontiff very favorably (57 percent vs. 46 percent). And Catholics who report attending Mass at least once a week are more likely than those who attend less regularly to hold a very favorable view. Catholic Republicans and Democrats are about equally likely to express positive views of the pope, as are both conservative and liberal Catholics.

Joe Carter

Joe Carter is a Senior Editor at the Acton Institute. Joe also serves as an editor at the The Gospel Coalition, a communications specialist for the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, and as an adjunct professor of journalism at Patrick Henry College. He is the editor of the NIV Lifehacks Bible and co-author of How to Argue like Jesus: Learning Persuasion from History's Greatest Communicator (Crossway).