By Mary Wisniewski
CHICAGO (Reuters) - Positive feelings toward the Roman Catholic Church have gone up in the United States since Pope Francis's first visit to the country, according to a Pew Research Center survey released on Wednesday.
Overall, 28 percent of U.S. adults surveyed said they had a more positive view of the Catholic Church because of Pope Francis. The September trip by the head of the world's approximately 1 billion Catholics included a speech to a joint meeting of the U.S. Congress.
The favorable shift is more pronounced among liberals, with 39 percent saying they have a more positive view of the Church, compared with conservatives, at 22 percent. Conservatives were 10 percent more likely to have a negative view of the Church because of Francis, compared with liberals at 4 percent.
On some issues, the pope has taken positions favored by those who are more ideologically liberal, including on immigrant rights and fighting climate change.
He also has reaffirmed the Church's opposition to abortion and gay marriage, typically conservative views. Francis provoked controversy by meeting with well-known gay marriage opponent Kim Davis during his visit, and he also met with a gay couple.
Francis' overall favorability rating is 68 percent among U.S. adults, up from 64 percent in June, the survey found.
His rating has slipped among U.S. Catholics, with 81 percent saying they have a favorable view, down from 90 percent in February.
"The change seems to be more among people who don't offer an opinion," Pew researcher Jessica Martinez said.
Francis' favorability rating among U.S. Catholics is now at the same level as Pope Benedict's following his visit to the United States in 2008.
The poll was conducted between October 1 and 4 among 1,000 U.S. adults, with a margin of error of plus or minus 3.8 percentage points. The survey included 218 Catholics. The margin of error for the survey for Catholics was plus of minus 8.1 percentage points.
(Reporting by Mary Wisniewski; Editing by Mohammad Zargham)