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Pope Francis' Popularity Dives in United States, Gallup Poll Finds

Pollsters say the drop in his favorability rating is fueled by conservatives.

Pope Francis' popularity in the United States has dropped significantly over the last year, fueled in part by conservatives, according to a new poll.

The Gallup survey found 59 percent of Americans have a favorable view of the pontiff, down from 76 percent a year ago. The plunge was greatest among those who identify as conservatives — from 72 percent a year ago to 45 percent now.

The pollsters said Francis' criticism of capitalism, comments on climate change and focus on the income inequality may have hurt him with conservatives. Liberals who were drawn to Francis' populist message may have become impatient with the slow pace of change in church policy, the pollsters theorized.

Lifelong Catholic Jack Wynn, 64, who owns a public relations firm and describes himself as a fiscal conservative, said he's so upset about the pope's economic outlook — his comments about "unfettered capitalism" and "idolatry of money" — that he told his local church in Virginia he won't be donating any more money to them.

"He's dumping on capitalism," Wynn said. "My opinion is this guy is a socialist."

The Gallup findings differ from those in another recent poll — a survey from Pew Research in February that found the pope's popularity among Americans has never been higher. That poll also found nine out of 10 Catholics viewed him positively.

Francis, who was named TIME's Man of the Year in 2013, is set to embark on his first U.S. trip in September, with stops in Washington, New York and Philadelphia. Gallup said his numbers could rebound after the publicity from that visit.

It also noted that Francis' ratings are still higher than those of his predecessor, Benedict XVI, who bottomed out at 40 percent in 2010.