Amid new allegations of child sex abuse within the Catholic Church, an April Pew Research poll found that most Americans (71%) said Pope Benedict XVI had done a poor (44%) or only fair (27%) job in handling the scandal. Very few said the pope had done an excellent (3%) or good job (9%). The ratings were far worse than when the public was asked about the pope’s handling of the scandal in April 2008 — shortly after his visit to the U.S. — when 39% said he had done an excellent or good job in dealing with the child sex abuse scandal and 48% said he had done only a fair or poor job. Among those who have heard at least a little about the pope, Catholics express more positive opinions of the pontiff’s handling of the child sex abuse scandal; 32% feel he has done an excellent or good job. Still, a majority (59%) of Catholics say he has done a poor or fair job, up from 40% in April 2008. Catholics who attend church at least once a week are more supportive of the pope’s performance than those who attend church less often. Protestants are more critical of the pope than are Catholics — with little difference between white evangelicals and mainline Protestants — while religiously unaffiliated Americans are the most likely to criticize the pope over the child sex abuse scandal within the Catholic Church. Read More

Russell Heimlich  is a former web developer at Pew Research Center.