Twelve percent of Americans say the pope has done an “excellent” (3 percent) or “fair” (9 percent) job with the scandal, a significant drop from April 2008. At that time, 39 percent said he had done an excellent or good job addressing clergy sex abuse.
The poll, conducted by the nonpartisan Pew Research Center for the People & the Press and the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life, is based on a national telephone survey April 1-5.
Recent news media reports have raised questions about whether Benedict mishandled predatory priests while he was an archbishop in Germany and head of the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.
Positive opinions of Benedict have fallen across the board, including the opinions of Catholics. Weekly mass attendees remain the pope’s biggest supporters, but only 44 percent say he has done a good job handling the scandal, down from 60 percent in 2008.
Both mainline and evangelical Protestants are more critical of the pope than Catholics, with 72 percent giving him fair or poor ratings. Religiously unaffiliated Americans prove to be the most critical: 86 percent say the pope has handled the sex abuse scandal fairly or poorly.
The maximum margin of sampling error for the survey is plus or minus four percentage points.