In Italy, a person’s support for – or opposition to – Pope Francis has a stronger connection to their political affiliation or worldview than to their faith, a recent survey concluded.
A poll conducted by SWG, an Italian firm that monitors public opinion, showed that of the 800 adults surveyed in Italy, a significant number of people identifying as “traditionalist” Catholics supported the pope while the majority of those who opposed the pope were people who affiliated themselves with centre-right political parties.
The results of the poll, conducted from 28th to 30th October, were published on www.swg.it in early November as part of the organisation’s weekly “radar” reports.
The majority of respondents identified themselves either as non-Catholics or non-practicing Catholics at 29 per cent and 35 per cent, respectively, while 25 per cent of those surveyed identified themselves as “traditionalist” Catholics and 11 per cent described themselves as “progressive” Catholics.
Those surveyed were asked how strongly they agreed or disagreed with a number of statements about Pope Francis and his impact on the church and the world.
One statement, “Pope Francis is trying to change the Church, but many within (the Church) oppose his initiatives” resulted in 83 per cent of respondents agreeing and 17 per cent disagreeing; almost all (98 per cent) of the 88 “progressive” Catholics surveyed agreed.
The majority of all respondents (between 60 per cent and 76 per cent) agreed with such statements as Pope Francis’ teachings are meant for everyone, including people of no faith; he is “faithfully interpreting the Gospel”; his positions are closer to those who are not part of the Church than to active Catholics; and “he is removing power from the Roman Curia.”
The two statements close to three-quarters of all respondents disagreed with were: Pope Francis is distorting or “misinterpreting Church teaching” and “he is destroying the Church.” Of those who did agree with those two statements, the most cohesive group was people identifying themselves as “traditionalists.” About 40 per cent of self-proclaimed traditionalists agreed with the statements.
When it came to the pope’s position on the environment, financial reform at the Vatican and combatting child sex abuse, on average, 75 per cent of all respondents agreed the pope was having a positive impact.
On abortion, 55 per cent of respondents agreed and 45 per cent disagreed with the statement that “Pope Francis continues to have a backward” or conservative position, with non-Catholics being the most cohesive group – 64 per cent of them agreed with the statement.
The majority of respondents (64 per cent and 69 per cent, respectively) disagreed with the statements: “Pope Francis cares too much about social issues and too little about the care of souls,” and “Pope Francis’ openness toward homosexuals is unacceptable.” Among those who identified as “traditionalist,” 52 per cent agreed with the first statement and 46 per cent agreed with the second.
The survey also looked at respondents’ gender and political and religious affiliation in relation to whether they considered themselves as someone who “opposed” or supported the pope or were “in the middle,” having no consistent or uniform opinion making them completely pro or con.
Only 14 per cent of respondents considered themselves fully “opposed” to the pope, believing he was betraying Church teaching, destroying the Church or not faithfully interpreting the Gospel.
Of this minority, 59 per cent were men and 58 per cent identified themselves politically as centre-right. In addition, 35 per cent said they were “traditionalist” Catholics, 33 per cent were non-Catholics, 28 per cent said they were nonpracticing Catholics and four per cent described themselves as “progressive” Catholics.
The majority of those surveyed – 52 per cent – said they supported the pope and believed he was faithfully interpreting the Gospel. Of these supporters, the majority, 53 per cent, were women. Politically, 37 per cent of the group said they were centre-left or part of an anti-establishment populist movement, while 19 per cent affiliated themselves with the centre-right.
Of the supporters, 14 per cent said they were “progressive” Catholics, 21 per cent described themselves as “traditionalist” Catholics, 28 per cent said they were non-Catholics, and 37 per cent said they were nonpracticing Catholics.
Picture: Pope Francis leads his general audience in Paul VI hall at the Vatican on 28th October 2020. (CNS photo/Paul Haring).