The religious makeup of the United States has notably shifted in recent decades, as the share of Americans who identify as religiously unaffiliated has surged. But this trend has yet to significantly affect the composition of Congress, which continues to be dominated by Christians, according to a new analysis from Pew Research Center.
“Since 2007, the share of Christians in the general population has dropped from 78% to its present level of 63%,” Pew reported. “But Christians make up 88% of the voting members of the new 118th Congress being sworn in on Jan. 3 — only a few percentage points lower than the Christian share of Congress in the late 1970s.”
Most of the 469 Christians in the 118th Congress identify as some type of Protestant, such as Baptist (67), Methodist (31) or Presbyterian (25). But a notable minority (148) identify as Catholic; Catholics comprise 27.7% of Congress overall, Pew found.
Although Christians dominate both the Republican and Democratic contingents in Congress, the Democratic caucus is more religiously diverse.
“All the Unitarian Universalists (3), Muslims (3), Buddhists (2) and Hindus (2) in Congress are Democrats, and there is one Democrat who identifies as humanist,” Pew reported.
In the Republican caucus, on the other hand, all but three officials identify with a faith group that Pew classifies as Christian. Two are Jewish and one has an unknown religious affiliation.
“Nearly 7 in 10 Republican members of Congress identify as Protestants (69%),” compared to 44.1% of Democratic members of Congress, according to Pew.
In this Congress, as in other recent sessions, just one member — Arizona Sen. Kyrsten Sinema — identifies as religiously unaffiliated. Another — Rep. Jared Huffman, D-Calif. — is Congress’ lone humanist.
Pew’s analysis is based primarily on data collected by CQ Roll Call, which received responses to questions about religious affiliation from all but 20 members of the 118th Congress.
“The CQ questionnaire asks members what religious group, if any, they belong to. It does not attempt to measure their religious beliefs or practices,” Pew noted.
Here are a few other notable takeaways from Pew’s new report:
- Nine members of the 118th Congress identify as members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. All are part of the Republican Party.
- There are no Buddhists, Muslims and Hindus among the newly elected members of Congress.
- One member of the 118th Congress identifies as a Messianic Jew: Florida Rep. Anna Paulina Luna, a Republican. Pew noted that Luna has also described herself as Christian in the past.
- Jews comprise 6% of Congress but only 2% of the U.S. population.