Poll: Papal Visit Imparts Pro-Life Opinion Boost in United States

A new Marist poll, sponsored by the Knights of Columbus, suggests a small bounce among Americans in support for Church teaching after Pope Francis’ visit to the U.S.

Pope Francis addresses the U.S. Congress on Sept. 24.
Pope Francis addresses the U.S. Congress on Sept. 24. (photo: L'Osservatore Romano.)

BRIDGEPORT, Conn. — Pope Francis’ visit to the United States has given a boost to Americans’ stated support for the pro-life cause, the results of a survey conducted this month suggest.

About 62% of Americans voiced support for life at every stage of its development, including the unborn, according to a Marist Poll. The survey shows an increase of six percentage points since August.

Among practicing Catholics, about 81% agreed, an increase from 76%.

Americans’ support for religious freedom appeared to increase by seven percentage points, to 85%, with practicing Catholics’ support increasing seven percentage points to 87%.

Carl Anderson, supreme knight of the Knights of Columbus, said Pope Francis’ presentation of Catholic values “resonated in the minds and hearts of the American people.”

“His ability to generate so much consensus on such a diverse number of issues, some of which are seen as very complicated here, speaks to his ability to preach Gospel values convincingly, in our country and in our time,” Anderson said Oct. 19.

The Knights of Columbus sponsored the Marist Poll survey of 1,095 U.S. adult residents Oct. 1-9. It follows Pope Francis’ stops in Washington, Philadelphia, and New York City during his Sept. 22-27 visit.

The results indicate Americans’ support for marriage as a union of one man and one woman increased four percentage points to 55%. About 60% of practicing Catholics believe the Church's teaching about marriage, an increase of seven percentage points.

About 84% of respondents agreed with the need for more respect for the earth and the environment, with 81% of practicing Catholic respondents in agreement — an increase of 10 percentage points since the papal visit.

The papal trip appears to have given Americans clarity about the Pope’s vision for the Church. In April, only 43% of Americans and 73% of practicing Catholics said they were clear about the Pope’s vision. After his trip, 55% of Americans and 88% of practicing Catholics said the same.

About 74% of respondents said they view the Pope favorably, an increase from 58% in August. About 90% of practicing Catholics view the Pope favorably, an increase of seven percentage points.

Fewer than 24% of Americans saw the papal visit as political. Most agreed that it was “mostly about values,” the Knights of Columbus said.

Most Americans said they followed media coverage of the papal visit in some way, as did 96% of practicing Catholics. Seventy percent of practicing Catholics said they followed the coverage “a great deal” or “a good amount.”

Over half of Americans feel better about their own faith because of the papal visit, as do 86% of Catholics. Poll respondents said they were more likely to engage in charitable activity as a result of the trip.

Americans do appear to diverge with Pope Francis on the death penalty. Only 41% of respondents opposed the death penalty, though opposition appeared to slightly increase after the papal visit.

The Marist Poll claims a margin of error of plus or minus three percentage points for the sample of all U.S. respondents and a margin of error of plus or minus 7.7 percentage points for Catholic respondents.