Support for Pope Francis among Americans has fallen more than 10 percent as sexual abuse scandals plague the Catholic Church.
A report released by Gallup Tuesday shows that the pope’s favorability in the U.S. has dropped from 66 percent to 53 percent.
Despite the ongoing scandal, the poll also found that support among Roman Catholics in the country remains unchanged.
“While Americans overall see Francis less favorably, U.S. Catholics’ opinions of the pope have not shifted,” Gallup says. “Seventy-nine percent of U.S. Catholics have a favorable opinion of Francis, essentially unchanged from the 78% who felt the same last month. There has been no change in the 12% of U.S. Catholics who hold negative views of the pope.”
The survey comes as a Pennsylvania state attorney general’s report reveals allegations of widespread sex abuse by priests in the church.
The pope himself has also faced criticism for allegedly helping to conceal reports of sex abuse by a cardinal in the U.S.
“Although U.S. Catholics’ opinions of Francis do not appear to have yet been affected by the latest controversies, Catholics are less positive about the pontiff than they were at his peak favorability,” Gallup adds. “In 2014, in the midst of high-profile reforms to the Catholic Church, nearly nine in 10 U.S. Catholics had a favorable view of the pope. This has now fallen to nearly eight in 10.”
Gallup compares Francis’ dropping popularity to that of Pope John Paul II, who faced similar controversies during his tenure.
Gallup notes, however, that the current scandals are unlikely to create a significant fallout for Francis.
“The decline in the pope’s positive image is concentrated among non-Catholics — U.S. Catholics’ opinion of Francis are unchanged. This lack of impact for Francis among Catholics may indicate that the level of fallout the pope experiences will be limited,” Gallup says. “U.S. Catholics may not hold Francis responsible for the current controversies or may agree with the pope’s response to them so far.”