The findings, part of a wider so far unpublished study of the abuse scandal, found that 94 percent believe clerical sex abuse has caused damage and over half believe it will be permanent.
The question of whether people were satisfied with the church today showed a big split, with 44 percent satisfied and 43 percent unhappy. Over a third said the scandals had had a negative impact on their religious practices.
The continuing controversy has rocked confidence in the clergy, with 41 percent saying that if a new priest arrives in their parish, they would wonder if he is someone they can trust.
Over three-quarters disagreed that Catholics should do what a priest tells them and 71 percent did not think priests are closer to God than other people.
The survey found that 74 percent were against celibacy for priests and 85 percent expected a priest’s moral conduct to be better than other people’s.
The church’s response to the scandals of the pedophile clerics has been inadequate, according to 77 percent of people.
More than four of five said they felt they had not been kept adequately informed by the church about abuse, and 92 percent wanted incidents of priests sexually abusing children to be made public.
The study found 42 percent believe the church will safeguard children entrusted to its care, while 40 percent trust the church to take care of problems with its own clergy.
The telephone survey was conducted between January and May among 1,081 people from 18-80, chosen to represent a cross-section of the population.
It was undertaken by the Health Services Research Centre at the department of psychology of the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland.
Halfway through the survey the screening of a BBC documentary on clerical sex abuse in the diocese of Ferns had a significant impact on attitudes. Before the publicity, 53 percent said they trusted the church to take care of its own clergy, but this dropped to 33 percent after the program was screened.
Last month, another RTE TV documentary highlighted clerical abuse in Dublin and the knowledge that the church authorities and Dublin Archbishop Cardinal Desmond Connell had about it.
Abuse victims’ representatives have been meeting Justice Minister Michael McDowell and Health Minister Micheal Martin for discussions on a further state inquiry into the scandal.
Two state inquiries, headed by judges, into clerical abuse are already under way, one dealing with abuse in Ferns and the other investigating abuse in residential institutions.