A study released Wednesday morning by the Institute for Policy Research and Catholic Studies at the National Press Club in Washington D.C. showed that Francis’s leadership has had an overwhelming effect on American voters.
Data were collected by YouGov from a representative sample of 1400 Catholics: 1000 in a national sample and 400 in an oversample of 2016 battleground states.
The study showed Francis’s overall approval rate is higher among Democratic Catholic voters than Republican Catholic voters. Twenty-eight percent of Republican Catholic voters approved of Francis’s leadership compared to 53 percent of Democratic Catholic voters.
Ninety-two percent of Democratic Catholic voters agreed Francis is leading the church in the right direction compared to 70 percent of Republican Catholic voters.
In the next stage of the study, the sample was divided in half at random. Surveyors mocked up two news stories, one with text from an address given by Francis, and another with text from various church documents.
The sample was then asked a series of questions on American political policy.
The sample was first asked if voters should be sensitive to a range of policy issues or a particular set of non-negotiable issues. Those who read the text from Francis agreed by a 77-23 percent margin that votes should be cast based on a range of policy issues.
The sample was then asked if increases in earth temperature are due more to human activities or natural change. Again, those who read the text from Francis agreed by a 54-39 percent margin that increases in earth temperature are due to human activity. Readers of the alternative text disagreed by a 41-43 percent margin.
“It is becoming unorthodox for Catholic voters to disagree with climate change,” said John Gehring, author of “The Francis Effect,” at the panel discussion Wednesday morning.
Climate change, according to the study, has become a Democratic issue, which could lead to a shift in parties among Catholic voters.
Francis has received significant approval from the Democratic Party. The study points out, however, that the Latino population makes up a significant portion of the Democratic Party.
“Latino Catholics showed distinctly liberal priorities, particularly when it comes to economic policy,” the study states.
The study also points out that the Latino voting population has one of the lowest turnouts.
The study then shifted to Francis’s economic policy. Francis has been critical of unregulated capitalism, and is popularly quoted for saying “such an economy kills.”
Voters had a different reaction to Francis’s economic policy. According to the study, only 25 percent of conservatives agreed with Francis’s criticism of capitalism. Forty-eight percent disagreed.
A panel of speakers (Luke Russert, David Buckley, Melinda Henneberger, Stephen Schneck, John Gehring, and Simone Campbell) discussed the study Wednesday morning at the National Press Club. With Francis’s approval rates high, some panelists speculated that criticism of Francis from a presidential candidate could hurt a campaign.
Next week, Francis will visit the United States for the first time and will become the first pope to address congress.
“Francis could bring liberals and conservatives together,” said Melinda Henneberger.