Only 48 per cent of Americans have a favourable view of Pope Francis, down from two thirds a year and a half ago, according to polling by CNN.
The most recent poll was conducted between September 6 and September 9 amid controversy over allegations raised against Pope Francis by his former US nuncio, Archbishop Carol Maria Vigano.
Among US Catholics, the Pope’s favourability rating fell from 83 per cent in January 2017 to 63 per cent now.
The survey results are all the more surprising because a poll by Pew Research Forum conducted in January found that Pope Francis was still highly regarded among Americans, with roughly six in ten expressing a favourable view of him. His popularity was particularly high among Catholics, with 84 per cent expressing a favourable view.
In Italy the Pope’s popularity has suffered a similar but less dramatic decline. A poll published by the Italian newspaper La Repubblica found his approval rating had fallen from 88 per cent to 71 per cent over the five years of his pontificate.
In the United States the Pope’s popularity is particularly low among Republicans, with just 36 per cent expressing a favourable view in the latest CNN poll.
Segments of the population that were supportive of Pope Francis in the January 2017 polling have also seen sharp declines in approval. Among women, according to CNN, his favourability rating is down from 71 per cent to 51 per cent, and among Democrats it is down from 79 per cent to 59 per cent.
In recent decades both St John Paul II and Benedict XVI experienced falls in favourability during their pontificates. In the last year of their papacies St John Paul II was perceived favourably by 44 per cent of Americans while Benedict XVI was rated favourably by 57 per cent.
The CNN survey, conducted by SSRS, had a random national sample of 1,003 adults reached on the phone. The January 2017 survey was conducted with about half that number.