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 TlaibBiden Cabinet picks largely unify Democrats — so far Democrats brush off calls for Biden to play hardball on Cabinet picks GOP congresswoman-elect wants to form Republican 'Squad' called 'The Force' MORE (D-Mich.) and Ilhan OmarIlhan OmarMeet the three Democrats who could lead foreign affairs in the House Biden Cabinet picks largely unify Democrats — so far GOP congresswoman-elect wants to form Republican 'Squad' called 'The Force' MORE (D-Minn.), are joining Congress this year, the first time Muslim women have been elected to Congress. They are joining Rep. Andre CarsonAndré CarsonCedric Richmond's next move: 'Sky's the limit' if Biden wins Shakespeare Theatre Company goes virtual for 'Will on the Hill...or Won't They?' Lawmakers set for tearful goodbye to John Lewis MORE (D-Ind.), a Muslim man. Omar is replacing former Rep. Keith EllisonKeith Maurice EllisonProgressives unveil Biden Cabinet wish list Officers involved with George Floyd killing will stand trial together in Minneapolis, judge decides Trump lashes out at state officials over virus restrictions at Minnesota rally 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.