Who Really Cares About the Election of the Pope?

Last week on the blog I discussed the mainstream media's fascination – and apparent surprise (since he appears to be... wait for it... someone who holds Catholic beliefs) – that Pope Francis was elected as what Catholics consider the 266th pontiff. And while this was an event with worldwide interest and implications, we at LifeWay Research pondered whether or not the general public was as interested in the story as the media made it seem. So we did what research companies do when we have an extra spot on another survey: we asked Americans if they had been following the election of the Pope with interest.

The results were somewhat surprising. And, since the election is over, I am sharing it here (exclusively) with you, my blog readers.

Less than half of Americans followed the election with interest, and more did not follow it than did. Even more surprising was that only 13 percent of Americans strongly agreed that they were following the election with interest. Given that more than 50 million Americans identify as Catholics, that number seems somewhat low. You'd think even nominal Catholics would have great interest.

Even in the protestant circles in which I run, this was a major news event. And while I realize that one's interest in the election of a new Pope is in no way a spiritual litmus test, we evangelicals should see this as a reminder of the spiritual need of our fellow Americans. Like religious holidays, religious news events are opportunities for us to strike up spiritual conversations with those who have no personal relationship with Christ.

pope interest lifeway

Ed Stetzer, Ph.D., is President of LifeWay Research and LifeWay's Missiologist in Residence. Adapted from Ed Stetzer's weblog at

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