Congress’s religious profile unaltered

January 6, 2011

An influx of Republicans has colored the House of Representatives
red, but the midterm elections did little to alter the religious
composition of Capitol Hill.

Like the U.S. public, Protestants
make up more than half (57 percent) of the 112th Congress, and Catholics
constitute roughly a quarter (29 percent), according to a study by the
nonpartisan Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life.

The number of
Protestants in Congress has slowly dropped from 394 in the early 1960s
to 304 in 2011, declining by several percentage points each decade. This
year's congressional class added 12 Protestants, however.

Nearly
seven in ten Republicans in Congress are Protestant, and there remains a
greater percentage of Methodists (10 percent), Episcopalians/Anglicans
(8 percent) and Presbyterians (8 percent) in Congress than in the
American public. Baptists, by contrast, are underrepresented, according
to Pew's study: they make up nearly 17 percent of the population, but
less than 13 percent of Congress.

No religious group appears to be
as underrepresented on Capitol Hill as atheists, however. About
one-sixth of the U.S. population (16 percent) identifies as religiously
unaffiliated, according to Pew. While six members of the new Congress
don't specify a religious affiliation, none say they are unaffiliated. 
—RNS