I'm doing a research paper on Pope Francis, and I need to know from a Catholic's view how Pope Francis's popularity ranks over Pope Benedict XVI's. Can you help?
I will not give you my opinion, but rather my understanding of Pope's reception from the reading of the catholic resources on the topic, which I suggest you study yourself as well.
In general, Pope Francis is very much liked by all but "the traditionalist". He is a pastor more than a theologian so he resonates better with a "common catholic". So an average catholic, appears to like Pope Francis's approach more than his predecessor's.
The "traditionalist" or "conservative" Catholics (I hate these terms, hence the quotes), those who liked JPII's or Benedict's philosophical (apparently rigid & dogmatic), theology, especially Benedict's seeming support for pre Vatican II practices like Latin mass, have strong reservations or hostility to Pope Francis; there are some groups ready to call him the antichrist. for those views, go to www.Gloria.tv.
He is also very much liked by liberal Catholics who wrongly interpret some of the things he says as supporting changes that they want to make; while those same Catholic's despised benedict's "conservatism"
Many "moderate" "thinking" Catholics are concerned how the Pope's remarks are being twisted, but hold Pope Francis in great esteem.
A number of opinion polls have been conducted on the new Pope's popularity.
This opinion poll says that in the US, Pope Francis is more popular among Catholics that Pope Benedict, and as popular as John Paul II was at the height of his esteem. US Catholics are a very small fraction of world Catholics, and very unlike the majority of Catholics in the world.
This poll appears to give a 92% popularity for him in Italy, but the article contains no comparison with Benedict.
This is a fairly random sampling of polls, but it should be enough to get you started researching what other polls say about Francis' popularity.