Just a week after Benedict XVI's resignation, a new Knights of Columbus-Marist poll finds that American Catholics give high marks to the Pope Emeritus.

More than three quarters of Catholics (77%) and more than 8 in 10 practicing Catholics (82%) have a very positive or positive impression of Pope Benedict XVI’s years as pope. 

American Catholics have very positive views on Pope Benedict’s impact on their lives, the direction of the Church, and the moral direction of the world. 

Nearly 7 in 10 Catholics (68 percent) and more than three quarters of practicing Catholics (77 percent) say Pope Benedict had a “very positive” or “positive” impact on their lives. Only 13% of Catholics and 12% of practicing Catholics saw a negative impact.

Additionally, 70 percent of Catholics and 75 percent of practicing Catholics believe he had a “very positive” or “positive” impact on the direction of the Catholic Church. Only about two in 10 said his impact was negative or very negative (21 percent and 19 percent respectively).

About two thirds of Catholics (65 percent) and about 7 in 10 practicing Catholics (69 percent) said he had a “very positive” or “positive” impact on the moral direction of the world. Fewer than a quarter (23 and 22 percent respectively) disagreed and saw his impact as negative or very negative.

Pope Benedict’s use of Twitter was also very popular among Catholics. Two-thirds of Catholics and practicing Catholics (67 percent and 66 percent respectively), said they “liked the idea” of the pope using Twitter to communicate. Only a quarter of each group disagreed (25 percent for Catholics and practicing Catholics).

Overall, nearly 7 in 10 Catholics (69 percent) and three quarters of practicing Catholics (75 percent) have a very favorable or favorable view of Pope Benedict XVI. By contrast, only 16 percent of Catholics (and 14 percent of practicing Catholics) have an unfavorable view.

“The data indicates clearly that American Catholics have a deep respect for Pope Benedict XVI and a great appreciation for his pontificate,” said Knights of Columbus Supreme Knight Carl Anderson. “That so many felt he had a positive impact on their lives, their Church and their world speaks volumes to the good that he was able to do as pope.”

The findings come just days after the Cardinals – gathered in Rome to elect the new pope – sent the Pope Emeritus a note of gratitude for his Petrine ministry and “example of generous pastoral care for the good of the Church and of the world."

The national survey of 2,000 American adults including 515 Catholics was conducted from March 2 through 5. The margin of error for Catholics is +/- 4.3 percentage points.