Poll: Americans Losing Faith in Pope

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CBS News Poll analysis by the CBS News Polling Unit: Sarah Dutton, Jennifer De Pinto, Fred Backus and Anthony Salvanto.

As more sexual abuse cases involving priests in both the United States and Europe have made headlines -- among them cases with connections to Pope Benedict XVI -- Americans have become less positive about the pope, according to a new CBS News poll.

While the pope's favorable rating has held roughly steady since 2006, coming in at 15 percent in the new poll, his unfavorable rating has jumped to 24 percent -- up from just four percent four years ago. (The other respondents were either undecided or said they haven't heard enough to have an opinion.)

Among Catholics, the pope's favorable rating has fallen 13 points, from 40 percent in 2006 to 27 percent today. His unfavorable rating has increased ten points to 11 percent. And the percentage of Catholics who are "undecided" about the pope has risen 21 points, to 36 percent.

More than two in three Americans, including a majority of Catholics, say the pope has done a bad job in handling charges of abuse by priests. Just 13 percent of people overall and one in five Catholics say the pope, who has been serving since April 2005, has done a good job on the issue.

Read the Complete Poll (PDF)

On Friday, the Associated Press reported that the Catholic Church waited more than ten years to defrock a pedophile priest despite an Arizona bishop's appeal to Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, who would become Pope Benedict XVI, to remove him from the priesthood.

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This poll was conducted among a random sample of 858 adults nationwide, interviewed by telephone March 29- April 1, 2010. Phone numbers were dialed from random digit dial samples of both standard land-line and cell phones. The error due to sampling for results based on the entire sample could be plus or minus three percentage points. The error for subgroups is higher. This poll release conforms to the Standards of Disclosure of the National Council on Public Polls.

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