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New National Poll Shows High Support for Pope Francis, Particularly among Trump Supporters

Friday, February 19, 2016

Pittsburgh, Feb 19 -- On the heels of a widening controversy between Pope Francis and Republican presidential hopeful Donald Trump, a new poll suggests the risks Trump could face if the dispute with the Pontiff widens.   

“Potential Trump supporters are supporters of the Pope to a greater degree.  This makes it critical for Trump to stay away from being perceived as fighting with Pope Francis,” said RMU political scientist Philip Harold.  

The poll, which was conducted before the controversy arose, showed Pope Francis enjoying a 69.3% favorable rating.  Of all respondents, 31.3% said they could see themselves supporting Donald Trump.  Of this group of potential Trump supporters, the Pope has an 71.24% favorability rating.   

Also, 33.4% of respondents think Francis would more likely be a Democrat, while only 11.0% think he would be a Republican.  35.3% suggested he would be unaffiliated, while the remaining 20.3% percent were unsure about his likely political leanings.

The survey was conducted by the Robert Morris University Polling Institute in the days prior to the controversy surrounding the pontiff’s remarks about Trump’s proposal to curb immigration and build a wall between the United States and Mexico.

En route to Rome after a visit to Mexico, where he performed a Mass in honor of migrants who died crossing the U.S.-Mexico border. Asked about Trump’s position, Francis said: “A person who thinks only about building walls, wherever they may be, and not building bridges, is not Christian. This is not the gospel.”

Trump responded by calling the pontiff’s remarks “disgraceful” and accused the Mexican government of using the pope as “a pawn” in the immigration dispute. 

A weighted sample of eligible voters was surveyed Feb. 16-18. The poll has a margin for error of plus-or-minus 3% with a 95% confidence level.

The poll also found that a startling 80.3% also agreed with the statement that Trump is “arrogant and egotistical.”

Harold said the poll showed Trump should dial down his rhetoric with the Pope.  “Ultimately I don’t think it will shake Trump’s core support,” Harold said. “We’ve had so many predictions by now of Trump’s demise, we now have pundit fatigue.”  But he added that “Trump is wise to shy away from this fight, particularly because the Achilles' Heel of his show of toughness is a potential lack of compassion.  As Trump racks up more victories he'll need to soften his image and pick up the supporters of other candidates.” 

ABOUT THE POLL:  The Poll was conducted by the Robert Morris University Polling Institute.  Polling by the Institute is conducted on a regular basis and may also include spontaneous polling on occurring events. 

 METHODOLOGY:  The Poll sampled opinions of 1000 approximately proportional to state population contribution nationwide.  The survey was conducted February 11-16, 2016. All surveys were conducted using an online survey instrument. The poll has a +/- 3.0 percent margin of error at a 95 percent confidence level on a composite basis.