Seven out of ten Catholics in the U.S. believe the next pope should let priests marry, allow women to become priests, and allow birth control.
Nine out of ten want the next pope to approve the use of condoms to prevent HIV.
Three quarters believe in abortion in some circumstances while six in 10 believe in the death penalty.
The child sex abuse scandal continues to dog the church with seven out of 10 believing the church and the Vatican has handled it poorly. The sex scandals are the biggest problems the church faces the survey found.
The figures showing a deep disconnect between American Catholics and their hierarchy and Rome were contained in a new poll of American Catholics carried out by The New York Times and CBS.
The survey reveals a congregation far more liberal than its hierarchy though the vast majority say they are happy with their own parish priest and continue to donate money to the local church.
Over six out of ten approve of gay marriage, a figure higher than the overall American figure of five out of ten approval.
Seven out of ten believe the Vatican and Pope Benedict did a very poor job in the child sex abuse scandal, a rise from three years ago.
Despite that four in 10 had a high opinion of retired Pope Benedict with only one in ten disliking him and most having no opinion.
On whether the pope is infallible when he pronounces on matters of faith only 40 per cent agreed with 46 per cent disagreeing.
When asked what was their top priority for the new pope the vast majority said it was to modernize the church.