After nearly eight months on the Throne of St. Peter, Pope Francis remains admired in the United States by Catholics and non-Catholics alike — but that popularity hasn't translated into a surge in church attendance, according a new poll.
An analysis of Pew Research surveys conducted between Francis' election in March and the end of October found that American Catholics aren't exactly flooding back to church: Mass attendance in the U.S. —the world's fourth largest Catholic population (after Brazil, Mexico and the Philippines) — has "remained virtually unchanged since the new pope was elected."
The plain-spoken pontiff has earned raves for his populist message, personal humility, and conciliatory attitude on the hot-button issues of homosexuality, abortion and contraception.
But since April of this year, 39 percent of American Catholics report going to Mass at least weekly, comparable to a 40 percent attendance figure from 2012, according to the Pew survey — rebutting the so-called 'Pope Francis effect' reported by various global news outlets.
And although 79 percent of Catholics and 58 percent of the general public think highly of the new pope, the percentage of Americans who identify as Catholics has stayed at 22 percent, according to the poll — no change from the same seven-month reporting period last year.
Americans typically report attending church more frequently than they really do, according to Pew.