With Easter just a few days away, a new survey shows that Pope Francis has just about jumped to rock-star status among Catholics in the United States.
The 2014 General Social Survey showed that under strength of their religious affiliation, 34 percent of Catholics said it was “strong,” which was up from 27 percent in 2012, the year before Francis was elected as the first pope from the Americas, the Religion News Service reports.
There also was a 6 percentage point drop to 56 percent of respondents, saying their affiliation with the Catholic Church was “not very strong.” It breaks a downward trend of Catholics’ ties to the church.
The change could be attributed to Pope Francis advocating for the poor, pushing for migrant rights and harshly criticizing the politics of the church.
While Pope Francis’ popularity appears to be behind the steady Catholicism retention rate after years of decline, Protestants and other Christian faiths haven’t found a similarly popular leader. Their numbers keep falling, dropping below 50 percent in 2014 for the first time.