Religious affiliation in new Congress under-represents US population, poll finds

The 116th Congress, which will be sworn in on Thursday, under-represents religious diversity among the U.S. population, according to a new Pew Research Center report.

According to Pew, the 116th Congress is slightly more religiously diverse than its predecessor, but still over-represents Protestants and Catholics in proportion to the affiliations' share in the general public.


The percentage of unaffiliated people in the U.S. is the most under-represented group in Congress, according to the poll. Twenty-three percent of the country's population identifies as atheist, agnostic or "nothing in particular," while only one person in the new Congress — Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, (D-Ariz.) identifies as unaffiliated, Pew found.

All other members of both chambers identify as a member of a religious group or have declined to specify their religious identification.

A higher number of lawmakers belong to the "don't know/refused" category in the 116th Congress, with 18 members declining to specify this year, compared to 10 members in the 115th Congress, according to the poll.  

Christians continue to be overrepresented in the new Congress, though the number of self-identifying Christians in Congress has decreased this year, according to the data. Eighty-eight percent of members of the 116th Congress are Christian, compared to 91 percent in the 115th. 

There are four more Jewish members this year, an additional Muslim member and one more Unitarian Universalist, the data shows. 

Reps. Rashida TlaibRashida Harbi TlaibFive takeaways from the Democratic debate in Ohio Democrats debate in Ohio: Who came out on top? Ocasio-Cortez to endorse Sanders for president MORE (D-Mich.) and Ilhan OmarIlhan OmarFive takeaways from the Democratic debate in Ohio Democrats debate in Ohio: Who came out on top? Ocasio-Cortez to endorse Sanders for president MORE (D-Minn.), are joining Congress this year, the first time Muslim women have been elected to Congress. They are joining Rep. Andre CarsonAndré CarsonTrump crosses new line with Omar, Tlaib, Israel move House Democrats urge Trump to end deportations of Iraqis after diabetic man's death Live coverage: Mueller testifies before Congress MORE (D-Ind.), a Muslim man. Omar is replacing former Rep. Keith EllisonKeith Maurice EllisonJudge threatens to put prison officials in same uncooled cells as inmates Minnesota students file federal lawsuit against school district alleging 'deliberate indifference' to racist incidents Former Sanders aides launch consulting firm MORE (D-Minn.), who was the first Muslim elected to Congress more than ten years ago. 

There are three members of Congress who identify as Hindu.

Two of the 253 members of the GOP do not identify as Christian, according to the poll. The two who identify otherwise are Jewish. 

Sixty-one of the 281 Democrats do not identify as Christian, with more than half of those identifying as Jewish and 18 declining to specify. 

Eighty-two percent of the general public who lean toward the Republican Party identify as Christian, compared with 57 percent of those who lean toward the Democratic Party.

The Pew Research Center analyzed CQ Roll Call data to reach its conclusions.