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 TlaibHouse Dems unveil measure to reject anti-Israel boycotts Dems concerned impeachment will make Trump 'appear like a victim,' says pollster Officials dismiss criticism that Trump rhetoric to blame for New Zealand attack MORE (D-Mich.) and Ilhan OmarIlhan OmarMuslim ex-News Corp. exec says he quit over anti-immigrant rhetoric House Dems unveil measure to reject anti-Israel boycotts Fox News host Jeanine Pirro to be bumped for second-straight week following Omar comments MORE (D-Minn.), are joining Congress this year, the first time Muslim women have been elected to Congress. They are joining Rep. Andre CarsonAndré CarsonHouse passes anti-hate measure amid Dem tensions Is the collusion theory dead? Religious affiliation in new Congress under-represents US population, poll finds MORE (D-Ind.), a Muslim man. Omar is replacing former Rep. Keith EllisonKeith Maurice EllisonKeith Ellison: Evidence points to Trump being 'sympathetic' to white nationalist point of view Trump: Media 'working overtime to blame me' for New Zealand attack Democrats upset over Omar seeking primary challenger 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.