The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Americans believe in climate change. But they don’t think the pope should criticize deniers.

President Obama welcomes Pope Francis to the White House on Wednesday. (Vincenzo Pinto/Agence France-Presse via Getty Images)

There was an interesting little detail buried in the Bloomberg News survey we wrote about earlier Wednesday. In keeping with the all-Pope-Francis-all-the-time nature of this week, the pollsters evaluated the extent to which people approved of recent decisions by the pontiff.

The results:

We'd like to draw your attention to the last two items on the list: the decisions and opinions offered by the pope with which people are least comfortable.

The second-to-last is about "denouncing the current economic system." What, exactly, is being evaluated here is a bit murky, but it's this: The pope has spoken out against the problems of unfettered capitalism. More Americans think that anti-capitalist sentiment is a good direction for the Catholic Church than think it is a bad direction, albeit by a smaller margin than most of the other issues.

The last question is more straightforward. Should the pope encourage the Catholic Church to speak out against climate change deniers? The pontiff made special mention of climate change in his remarks at the White House on Wednesday, in keeping with his recent efforts on the topic.

How do Americans feel about that? Only 33 percent think it's a worthwhile instruction — and more than half think it isn't.

That's pretty amazing. Basically, more people are comfortable with the church bashing free-market capitalism than with it bashing people who doubt that climate change is caused by humans. You have to figure that some not-small part of this derives from the vagueness of the capitalism question and the specificity of the one about climate change, and you have to figure that some part of it is rooted in the hyper-partisanship of climate change politics in the United States.

It reinforces, though, that the pope's efforts to convince the heaviest greenhouse-gas polluters per capita in the world (that is, Americans) of their folly probably won't succeed. The Bloomberg News poll also shows that 45 percent of Americans strongly disagree with the idea that climate change is a hoax — a question asked before the list above, we’ll note — which suggests that a decent number of people oppose criticizing climate change deniers even though they strongly disagree with the most extreme position of that group.

In hyperbolic summary: Undermine capitalism? Fine. Just don't make us install solar panels.