NEW YORK – With Pope John Paul II (search) still in the hospital — his second visit in a month — half of Americans overall (51 percent) and 68 percent of Catholics (search) say they have said a prayer for the pope’s health, according to a FOX News poll.
Given the pope’s health and age, the poll asked Americans if he is still an effective leader and should stay in his position. While a third (34 percent) think he is still effective and should stay, a 47 percent plurality believes the 84-year-old pope should step down. The views of Catholic Americans are more evenly divided: 47 percent think the pope should stay and 45 percent think he should step down.
By a 51 percent to 27 percent margin the public sees the pope’s role more as being a "religious leader" than a "moral example," with 14 percent volunteering the response "both." The results are essentially the same among Catholics, with 50 percent seeing his role as a religious leader, 29 percent as a moral example, and 18 percent saying both.
Overall, roughly equal numbers of Americans would like to meet President George W. Bush (42 percent) as would like to meet John Paul II (38 percent). Twice as many Catholics say they would rather meet the pope (57 percent) than the president (28 percent). The results are almost reversed among non-Catholics: 48 percent would like to meet the president and 30 percent John Paul II.
"The pope remains a very important figure in the lives of American Catholics. There is probably no other living person who most Catholics would be more interested in meeting," comments Opinion Dynamics Corporation Vice-President Lawrence Shiman.
Opinion Dynamics Corporation conducted the national telephone poll of 900 registered voters for FOX News on March 1-2.