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Poll finds strong support for pope

Three-fourths of Americans surveyed hold favorable view

John Paul II

(CNN) -- An overwhelming majority of Americans surveyed have a favorable opinion of Pope John Paul II, according to a phone poll conducted one month ago.

A CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll of 1,008 adult Americans, including 241 Catholics, found 78 percent held a favorable view of the ailing pontiff, while 11 percent held an unfavorable view of him.

John Paul has a unique relationship with the United States. He was the first pope to visit the White House -- in 1979. In 1984, the pope re-established full diplomatic relations with Washington, which were broken off by Congress in 1867. He has condemned the death penalty, the U.S.-led war against Iraq, and abortion rights.

And during a visit last year, at the height of his re-election bid, President Bush asked for the Vatican's help in getting U.S. bishops to promote his conservative social agenda.

Among Catholics polled, more than a third -- or 38 percent -- said they view the pope as one of the greatest world leaders in their lifetime. In contrast, 17 percent of non-Catholics view him that way.

The margin of error for questions asked of Catholics and non-Catholics was plus or minus 7 percentage points; otherwise, the margin was plus or minus 3 percentage points.

In a question asked of Catholics only, two-thirds of respondents said the pope's positions are about right. A third of the respondents said he is too conservative.

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