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Fox News Poll: New pope gives optimism about Catholic Church

Catholics worldwide celebrated last week when Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio of Argentina was chosen as the new pope.  Nationally, most Catholics say the election of Pope Francis makes them more optimistic about their church.

Pope Francis was elected on March 13 and formally installed as pope at a Mass on Tuesday.

Fully 76 percent of Catholics say Pope Francis makes them feel better about the future of the Catholic Church, according to a new Fox News national poll.  Only three percent say his election makes them feel worse.  Another 14 percent say the new pope doesn’t change how they feel.

Practicing Catholics who attend mass weekly are just as excited as Catholics who worship less regularly: 79 percent say Pope Francis makes them feel better about the church, two percent say worse and 13 percent feel the same.

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The new poll, released Wednesday, also asked about Pope Francis being the first pope from outside Europe in more than a thousand years:  61 percent of Catholics say that represents a big change for the church, while 36 percent feel it isn’t a big deal.

Two-thirds of practicing Catholics say it is a big change (66 percent), while 30 percent downplay it.

Among all American voters, 54 percent say the new pope makes them feel better about the future of the Catholic Church, while five percent feel worse.  For about a third of voters the new pope’s election does not change how they feel (30 percent).

Voters split over whether the pope being from Buenos Aires is a big change for the Catholic Church (49 percent) or not a big deal (43 percent).

The Fox News poll is based on landline and cell phone interviews with 1,002 randomly chosen registered voters nationwide and was conducted under the joint direction of Anderson Robbins Research (D) and Shaw & Company Research (R) from March 17 to March 19.  The full poll has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus three percentage points.  Among Catholics the poll has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 5.5 points and among practicing Catholics plus or minus eight points.