The pope, who arrives in the United States for a six-day visit on Tuesday, has made fans of US Catholics and non-Catholics alike, with slightly more Catholics — 86 percent — approving of the pope than Americans in general.
But those similarities diverge on the Church itself. While 81 percent of Catholics have a favorable view of the Church, only fifty-five percent of Americans as a whole do, according to the new poll, conducted by the Washington Post and ABC News earlier this month.
The divide between support for the Church and support for its leader was largest among respondents who said they had no religion, with 38 percent of them saying they had a favorable view of the Church, but 74 percent approving of the pope.
Pope Francis's approval rating was slightly lower among those identifying as conservative politically, 62 percent of whom viewed him favorably.
The pope has been active in urging compassion, including for those historically shunned by the Church, and for calling for action against economic inequality and environmental degradation.
Americans in general approve of those efforts, with 54 percent wanting him to “continue as he has been” doing and another 23 percent urging him to be even more active.
But Americans' views on the pope's role in urging their own government to act on those calls are a bit murkier.
While 59 percent said it would be appropriate for the pontiff to use his Thursday speech to Congress to press for action on “social, economic or environmental issues,” 31 percent said it would not be.
Meanwhile Pope Francis delivered mass on Sunday before hundreds of thousands of fans and faithful on Havana's iconic Revolution Square, calling Cubans to serve the most downtrodden and warning them that “service is never ideological.”
The pope's homily did not directly address Cuba's political situation or the nascent rapprochement he helped broker between the communist island and the United States, the next international stop on his most high-profile trip to date.
But he warned against both ideology and an every-man-for-himself mentality, at a time when Cuba faces a delicate period of economic and political transition.
“Christians are constantly called to set aside their own wishes and desires, their pursuit of power, and to look instead to those who are most vulnerable,” he told the crowd, speaking beneath a towering sculpture of his fellow Argentine Che Guevara's iconic silhouette.