What do we think of the Pope?

Pope Benedict XVI is to visit Great Britain later this year. But how do British people rate him? Some clues to this are given in the latest (the fifth) wave of the world leaders opinion barometer, undertaken by Harris Interactive on behalf of the news channel France 24 and the International Herald Tribune newspaper.

In Great Britain 1,076 adults aged 16-64 were interviewed online between 28 October and 4 November 2009. Interviews were also conducted in France, Germany, Italy, Spain and the United States of America. Opinions were sought about 21 world leaders, including the Pope and the Dalai Lama. Topline results are available at:


In terms of popularity ranking, the Pope features in fourth position in Great Britain, with 36% holding a very or somewhat good opinion of him, a rise of 3% over the fourth wave in April 2009 but seven points below the six-country average. The Dalai Lama comes second (58%), the same as in the United States, which he has visited recently, although the four continental European countries record much higher percentages.

Barack Obama, the American president, stands in first place (72%) for popularity with Britons. The current British prime minister, Gordon Brown, comes eighth and his predecessor, Tony Blair, seventh.

At the other end of the scale, 33% of Britons have a poor opinion of the Pope, suggesting that his pastoral visit to Britain could well spark controversy, compared with 8% having a poor opinion of the Dalai Lama.

This negativity towards the Pope is manifest in the four other European countries, reaching a high of 56% in Spain. Americans are better disposed towards the Pope, with an overall mean favourability score of 2.9, against the six-country average and the British figure (both 2.3).  

When it comes to a great deal or some influence in the world, the Pope drops to eighth position in Great Britain, 33% (2% down on the fourth wave) and the lowest figure in all six nations apart from France (Italians, 65%, rate him most highly for influence).

The Dalai Lama ranks thirteenth (27%) on this measure in Britain, with Brown in seventh position and Blair in tenth. 35% of Britons judge the Pope to have little or no influence, compared with 37% who say the same of the Dalai Lama.

This produces an average British index of popularity and influence of 35% for the Pope and 43% for the Dalai Lama. Obama is out in front on this combined scale, on 71%, with Angela Merkel of Germany also scoring well, at 41%. Brown and Blair, the two British politicians, fare less well than the two world spiritual leaders, scoring 31% and 29% respectively.

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