Since Pope Francis, more Catholics say the church is in touch

By Sarah Dutton, Jennifer De Pinto, Anthony Salvanto and Fred Backus

One year into Pope Francis' papacy, Catholics appear to be feeling more of a connection to their church than in the recent past. For the first time in CBS News polling, more Catholics now say that the Catholic Church is in touch with the needs of Catholics (48 percent) than say it is out of touch (43 percent).

Last year, before Pope Francis became Pope, a majority of Catholics (53 percent) said the church was out of touch. Catholics were more divided (47 percent "in touch", 47 percent "out of touch") in their views back in 1995.

There are some differences within the Catholic community. Most who attend religious services weekly or nearly every week think the church is in touch with the needs of Catholics, but Catholics who go to church less often are more divided: 47 percent say the Catholic Church is out of touch, while 42 percent think it is in touch.

President Obama and Pope Francis met at the Vatican Thursday, and when Americans are asked which of the two leaders they would most like to meet, 49 percent pick President Obama, and 43 percent choose Pope Francis. By a nearly two to one margin, Catholics pick Pope Francis.

Politics plays some role here: most Republicans (70 percent) would prefer to meet the Pope, while Democrats (73 percent) would rather meet the president.

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This poll was conducted by telephone March 20-23, 2014 among a total of 1,097 adults nationwide. Data collection was conducted on behalf of CBS News by Social Science Research Solutions of Media, Pa. Phone numbers were dialed from 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 poll included a general population sample of 1,007, plus 90 additional interviews with Catholics, for a total of 271 interviews with Catholics. The additional interviews were obtained through callbacks to people indicating they are Catholic on a previous poll. The total sample included a weight for Catholics using a target from the general population portion of the poll. The margin of error for Catholics is 8 points. The error for subgroups may be higher. Interviews were conducted in English and Spanish. This poll release conforms to the Standards of Disclosure of the National Council on Public Polls.

Margin of error: 3 points for total sample, 8 points for sample of Catholics

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