Growing conservative disaffection with Pope Francis appears to be taking a toll on his once teflon-grade popularity in the U.S., with a new Gallup poll showing the pontiff’s favorability rating among all Americans dropping to 59 percent from a 76 percent peak early last year.
Among conservatives the dropoff has been especially sharp: just 45 percent view Francis favorably today as opposed to 72 percent a year ago.
“This decline may be attributable to the pope’s denouncing of ‘the idolatry of money’ and attributing climate change partially to human activity, along with his passionate focus on income inequality — all issues that are at odds with many conservatives’ beliefs,” wrote Gallup analyst Art Swift.
But liberal fervor for the Argentine pope, who was elected to great acclaim in March 2013, has also cooled, dropping an average of 14 points.
Some observers have predicted that many who embraced the pope’s candor and his views on a range of social justice issues would temper their ardor as they realized he would not change church teachings on hot-button issues like abortion or contraception or gay marriage.
The decline comes just as American Catholics are set to welcome the pope this September for his first visit to the U.S. It essentially returns Francis to approval levels he had in the first months after his election.
The decline does appear to be relatively recent, and swift: a Pew Research Center survey from last February showed Francis’ approval rating among all Americans at 70 percent, and at a remarkable 90 percent among all Catholics. That number had been steadily increasing.