SAINT LEO, Fla., Dec. 15, 2015 /PRNewswire/ -- Americans said they increased their donations to charity in 2015, according to a new survey conducted by the Saint Leo University Polling Institute. And Pope Francis' visit to the United States may have influenced their generosity.
Data suggests 61 percent of respondents will give more or the same in 2015 compared to 2014, while 14.1 percent do not donate to charities and 15.9 percent plan to give less.
Catholics specifically stand out as 24.3 percent of those surveyed said they would donate more to charity. In fact, 14.9 percent said they were motivated to give the same or more by Pope Francis.
"Clearly, the pope had the most influence on Catholics," said Dr. Marc Pugliese, Saint Leo University assistant professor of religion and theology in Virginia.
Americans overall, and Catholics specifically, mirror each other in their giving patterns, as both groups plan to give to charities in general (14.9 percent overall, 23.3 percent Catholics), human rights groups (13.1 percent overall, 22.3 percent Catholics), environmental groups (13 percent overall, 21.4 percent Catholics), own place of worship (12.8 percent overall, 19.4 percent Catholics), "Right to Life" organizations (12.2 percent overall, 17.5 percent Catholics) and refugee/immigrant causes (9.9 percent overall, 15 percent Catholics).
"People feel compelled to do something," said Dr. Nancy Wood, Saint Leo University associate chair of human services, "whether that is donating money or donating time and volunteering."
"Giving back to the community unites Americans," Wood said. "It's helping my neighborhood out, getting back to the traditional 'it takes a village' mindset."
The pope's message is resonating with non-Catholics as well.
In Florida, the Saint Leo poll showed 63.2 percent of 531 respondents said they would give the same or more to charity in 2015. An improved economy in the state is helping some to give, said Dr. Susan Kinsella, department chair of human services at Saint Leo University. "This is the one area, that if you have a little extra money, you're going to give it to charities."
The Saint Leo University Polling Institute survey results about Florida and national politics, public policy issues, Pope Francis' popularity, and other topics, can be found here: http://polls.saintleo.edu. You can also follow the institute on Twitter @saintleopolls.
SOURCE Saint Leo University Polling Institute