The Ideological and Religious Bases of Attitudes Toward Pope Francis in the United States

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Since his election in 2013, Pope Francis has achieved influence as a religious leader while also impacting political discussions through his teachings on social justice and environmental matters. In the United States, his teachings on these topics have generated some controversy among right-leaning figures. In this study, I look at whether this controversy is reflected in mass opinion about Pope Francis. Using data from three national surveys of Americans, I find that individuals who identify with the political right evaluate Francis more negatively. Qualifying this, Catholic religious affiliation weakens the tendency for right-wing identifiers to evaluate Francis more negatively, while strengthening the tendency for those high in religiosity to evaluate the pope positively. Finally, consistent with the idea that politically aware individuals are more likely to make ideologically informed judgments, the relationship between identification with the political right and negative evaluations of Pope Francis was stronger among the politically engaged.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalJournal for the Scientific Study of Religion
StateAccepted/In press - 2021

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 The Society for the Scientific Study of Religion


  • Pope Francis
  • Roman Catholicism
  • ideology
  • political awareness
  • religiosity


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