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  • Numbers don't lie    March 6 
Poll: Pope Francis' popularity isn't filling up U.S. pews

Pope Francis is popular among American Catholics, with 83 percent of them viewing him favorably — including 51 percent who have a "very favorable opinion" — according to a Pew poll released Thursday. Sixty-eight percent of U.S. Catholics said that a year into his papacy, Francis represents a major, positive change for the Catholic Church (2 percent said a major, negative change). But there appears to be little of the "Francis effect" in American churches: While a quarter of Catholics are more excited about their faith and 40 percent have been praying more often, the same 40 percent said they are going to mass each week (and some 42 percent at least once a year) as before Francis was elected.

Pope Francis also seems to inspire hope that the Catholic Church will change on some major issues, Pew found, despite the pope's suggestions otherwise. American Catholics, it turns out, are a fairly liberal bunch: 77 percent want the church to allow contraception, 73 percent support priests getting married, 68 percent support the ordination of women priests, and 50 percent want Rome to recognize same-sex marriages. Those numbers all drop slightly when Pew screened for weekly church attendance. Not that you'd want to take those numbers to the bank: Pew talked to a grand total of 351 Catholics for the survey — the size of a small parish.

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