Faith On The Hill – The Religious Composition Of The 112th Congress

Faith On The Hill - The Religious Composition Of The 112th Congress

Many analysts described the November 2010 midterm elections as a sea change, with Republicans taking management of the U.S. House of Representatives and narrowing the Democratic majority in the Senate. But this political overhaul appears to have had little impact on the religious composition of Congress, which is much like the religious make-up of the earlier Congress and of the nation, in response to an evaluation by the Pew Research Center’s Forum on Religion & Public Life.

The 112th Congress, just like the U.S. public, is majority Protestant and about a quarter Catholic. Baptists and Methodists are the largest Protestant denominations in the new Congress, just as they’re within the nation as a complete.

A few of the country’s smaller religious groups, including Episcopalians, Presbyterians and Jews, have greater numerical illustration in Congress than in the overall inhabitants. Some others, including Buddhists and Muslims, are represented in Congress in roughly equal proportion to their numbers within the adult U.S. inhabitants. And a few small religious groups, similar to Hindus and Jehovah’s Witnesses, should not represented at all in Congress.

Perhaps the greatest disparity between the religious make-up of Congress and the folks it represents, nonetheless, is in the percentage of the unaffiliated – those that describe their religion as atheist, agnostic or “nothing particularly.” In response to data gathered by CQ Roll Call and the Pew Forum, no members of Congress say they’re unaffiliated. By distinction, about one-sixth of U.S. adults (16%) aren’t affiliated with any particular faith. Only six members of the 112th Congress (about 1%) don’t specify a religious affiliation, which is similar to the proportion of the general public that says they don’t know or refuses to specify their faith.1

These findings are based on a comparison of the religious affiliations of members of the brand new Congress with information on the U.S. public from the U.S. Religious Landscape Survey, carried out by the Pew Forum in 2007 among greater than 35,000 U.S. adults. CQ Roll Call gathered data on the religious affiliations of members of Congress by questionnaires and follow-up phone calls to members’ places of work. The Pew Forum supplemented that information with an in depth assessment of media studies on candidates in 2010 House and Senate races. It ought to be famous, nonetheless, that there is a crucial difference between a confidential telephone survey of a pattern of U.S. adults and media inquiries about the religious identification of an elected official or candidate. Media inquiries may discover fewer “unaffiliated” people because those inquiries are extra public.

The brand new, 112th Congress

Of the 535 members of the new Congress, 304 – or 57% – are Protestants, which is barely greater than the share of Protestants within the U.S. grownup population (51%). Compared with the earlier Congress, the 112th Congress has added 12 Protestants, a rise of roughly two percentage factors.

Baptists remain the largest Protestant denominational family in Congress, essentially unchanged from the 111th Congress, though there are somewhat fewer self-described Baptists on Capitol Hill (13%) than in the national inhabitants (17%). Methodists have declined barely in their proportion of Congress, dropping by six members, or about one proportion level. Nonetheless, Methodists still comprise a bigger share of Congress (10%) than of the general public (6%).

Another Protestant teams also are overrepresented in Congress relative to their numbers in the overall population. For example, whereas fewer than 2% of American adults identify themselves as Episcopalians, about 8% of Congress is affiliated with the Episcopal Church. As well as, 8% of Congress is Presbyterian, about 3 times the percentage of American adults who say they are Presbyterians (3%).

Protestants who don’t specify a specific denomination grew essentially the most from the 111th to the 112th Congress, growing their ranks by 19 members, to a total of 58. They now comprise 11% of Congress, up from 7% two years ago. The proportion of unspecified Protestants is almost as excessive amongst incumbents (10%) as among newly elected members (13%). It is unclear whether or not any of these unspecified Protestants are affiliated with nondenominational churches; simply two members of the 112th Congress specify that they belong to nondenominational Protestant churches.

If Protestants will not be counted collectively however as separate denominations, then Catholics are the largest religious group in the 112th Congress, with 156 members. Compared with the previous Congress, their ranks have thinned by five members. Still, Catholics comprise about 29% of the House and Senate, compared with about one-quarter of the U.S. adult inhabitants (24%).


Jews, who make up about 2% of the U.S. adult inhabitants, account for 7% of Congress as a complete and 12% of the Senate. However, there are six fewer Jewish members within the 112th Congress than there were within the 111th, a one-share-point decline. Mormons additionally make up about 2% of the U.S. public and a barely larger portion of Congress (almost 3%). That determine is about the same as in the earlier Congress; there are 15 Mormons in the 112th Congress, one more than previously.2


Another small religious teams are about as numerically effectively-represented on Capitol Hill as in the final population. Muslims, who account for 0.6% of the U.S. grownup population, make up 0.4% of Congress, whereas Buddhists make up 0.7% of the U.S. adult population and 0.6% of Congress. There aren’t any Jehovah’s Witnesses, Hindus or people who observe other world religions in Congress; these teams each have a small presence (lower than 1%) within the U.S. population as a complete.

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