So with news that Francis will release a document articulating the importance of addressing climate change, a document that will be paired with a three-month-long campaign for individual parishes per the Times and a speech to Congress that is likely to broach the subject — can Pope Francis actually change Americans' minds?
Attitudes on global warming have been fairly flat for decades now, with those considering it a subject for worry comprising just over half of the population and those not worried at all slowly gaining in number. As Gallup has noted, it's conservatives that are most likely to reject the need for urgent action on climate change. So how much sway does the Pope have with America's right?
Unsurprisingly, it's Catholics that view Francis most favorably, according to that Pew survey. The religious group that's least supportive of him are evangelical Protestants; even the religiously unaffiliated view him more positively these days.
And among Catholics, conservatives are more likely than moderates and liberals to approve of the Pope.
Those evangelical Protestants though. In 2012, Pew found that, overall, Catholics were slightly more likely to identify as Democrats than Republicans — but evangelical Protestants were far more likely to be Republican.
In 2012, Catholics narrowly supported Barack Obama. Evangelicals overwhelmingly backed Mitt Romney.
In other words, the religious group that most strongly backs the party that is most opposed to action on climate change is also the religious group that's least likely to view the Pope favorably.
The Post's Chris Mooney points to a survey from the Yale Project on Climate Change Communication suggesting that Catholics are most likely to accept climate science — but nearly 30 percent either don't know or reject the idea that global warming is happening. There are some 77 million Catholics in the United States, so that would suggest that there are about 24 million minds that can be changed.
Pope Francis is about as good a messenger to that group as you'll find. But if your goal is to get at the entrenched opposition to climate change, Pope Francis' popularity might not make any more of a dent than Barack Obama's.