The closeted Congress?

The Pew Research Center has surveyed the new Congress about the religious beliefs of its members and we find that nothing much has changed from the previous one.

More than nine-in-ten members of the House and Senate (92%) are Christian, and about 57% are Protestant, roughly the same as in the 113th Congress (90% and 56%, respectively).1 About three-in-ten members (31%) are Catholic, the same as in the previous Congress.

Congress is close to but not quite as diverse in religion as the population as a whole. While the smaller religions are represented in slightly lower proportions in Congress than they are in the general population (“Buddhists, Muslims and Hindus combined represent roughly 2% of American adults and 1% of Congress”), Jews have greater numbers in Congress, 5% versus 2% in the population.

The one major difference (no surprise) is with the non-religious. Only one member self-describes as religiously unaffiliated. That is just 0.2%, compared with 20% of the general population, so two orders of magnitude below.

We do not know how much of this difference is due to non-religious people not running for office, running and losing, or hiding their nonbelief. My bet would be that the last group makes up the bulk, since not being religious is still seen as being a disqualifier for holding office in many people’s minds.


  1. DsylexicHippo says

    That would be Rep. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz. I wonder how she even got elected. She’s openly bisexual and non-religious. We are talking about Arizona, not Vermont.

  2. Mano Singham says

    Sinema tends to keep quiet about her nonbelief and as far as I know her opponents have not made it an issue either. Also, Arizona is kind of quirky and hard to pigeonhole. Barry Goldwater, for example, had little patience with those religious people who tried to tell him what positions he should take and yet he was hugely popular.

  3. moarscienceplz says

    Sinema’s district includes a lot of Chandler, which is pretty much a satellite of Silicon Valley. Also, a lot of AZ’s Tea Party craziness is due to retirees who moved there from other states. So Arizona is a bit like Florida, some really red areas and some fairly blue or purple areas.

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