NEW YORK -- While much of the globe lauds Francis as the best pope since St. Peter, in the US his stock has dramatically fallen. A Gallup poll published on Wednesday reveals the "Vicar of Christ" is suffering a ungodly slump in popularity, particularly amongst American conservatives.
Only 71 per cent of America Catholics says they have a favourable view of the pontiff, a drop of 18 percent from last year. Remarkably, only 45 percent of American conservative Catholics admit to having a positive opinion of the Argentinian, a drop from 72 percent last year.
The reasons are clear: the notion of climate change or any undercutting of the primacy of the market challenges the conservative worldview. These have become papal staples, with Francis repeatedly decrying the excesses of capitalism while denouncing climate change deniers, most notably in his recent encyclical.
Francis also welcomed last week's nuclear deal with Iran, an agreement most Republicans decried. In January he stepped in to another issue close to the conservative heart -- immigration -- telling reporters he would like to walk across the US-Mexico border to show support for those trying to make the journey.
This has led to a backlash against the pope, particularly from Republican presidential candidates, with Jeb Bush and Rick Santorum suggesting Francis should hold his views.
The pope is due to travel to the US in September, visiting Washington, New York and Philadelphia. He will become the first pontiff to address a joint session of Congress, a speech that could fall within the heat of a congressional battle over Republican budget cuts, many that target the poor.