Polling Institute Reveals Findings on Pope’s Appeal, Lenten Rituals

March 26, 2014

U.S. President Barack Obama met Thursday with Pope Francis, putting the president in the company of a global leader with an approval rating among Americans that far exceeds the president’s own.

Pope Francis enjoys an 85 percent approval rating among American Catholics, and at 63 percent approval rating among all Americans, according to a new survey by the Saint Leo University Polling Institute. Just 5 percent of Catholics, and 8 percent of all Americans, hold a negative view of how Pope Francis is handling his duties as Pope.

The president’s approval rating in the same survey is a more modest 47 percent, with 49 percent disapproving of his job performance.

The Saint Leo University survey also asked Christians whether they gave something up for Lent. Giving up something for Lent “is a memory of Jesus taking 40 days at the beginning of his ministry and going into the desert to fast and pray,” explained Dr. Michael Anthony Novak (pictured), assistant professor of theology and religion at Saint Leo. “For Christians today, it is a way of focusing ourselves and looking towards the celebration of Easter and the resurrection of Jesus. It is a spiritual discipline that is meant to renew ourselves, or free up more time for prayers,” continued Dr. Novak.

Among Catholics, 31 percent said they have given something up for Lent this year. Among other Christians, 11 percent are observing Lent by giving something up. Another 40 percent of Catholics, and 19 percent of other Christians, say they have given something up for Lent in the past but did not do this year.

What do Americans give up for Lent? Respondents told Saint Leo University the following:

Percent Item Catholics Other Christians
32 Candy or sweets 35 28
28 Chocolate 31 22
23 Soda 19 28
22 Meat 23 20
21 Alcohol 19 22
19 Swearing 22 14
19 Fast food 20 19
17 Ice cream 21 13
13 Sex 10 12
11 Coffee 13 9
9 Television 11 7
7 Social media such as Facebook or Twitter 8 5
8 Other 10 6
9 Not sure/don't know 7 13

About the Saint Leo University Polling Institute/Methodology

The data is derived from a national poll of 1,009 people conducted by the Saint Leo University Polling Institute between March 16 and 18, 2014. The margin of error is approximately three percent +/- with a 95 percent confidence level. The Saint Leo University Polling Institute conducts its surveys using cutting-edge online methodology, which is rapidly transforming the field of survey research. The institute’s executive director is Dr. Andrew (Drew) Gold, associate professor of management at Saint Leo University.

To view the Florida political and policy results, including methodology, visit the polling institute’s website, http://polls.saintleo.edu. You can also follow the institute on Twitter @saintleopolls. Saint Leo’s main website is www.saintleo.edu.