November 21, 2012
New U.S. Congress: Most Religiously Diverse, Yet Still 56% Protestant
Pew analysis of elected officials reveals 299 Protestants, but also first-ever Hindu and 'none.'
The 113th Congress may not be wholly representative of the general public's religiosity. According to the Pew Forum, 299 of the 530 newly elected congressional officials (56 percent) identify as Protestant.
Pew reports that this is, more or less, the same percentage of Protestants as in the 112th Congress (307 of whom were Protestant). However, it stands in contrast to a Pew study released last month, which documented the rise of the "nones," the increasing number of Americans who say they do not affiliate with any particular religion or denomination. The same study showed that, for the first time ever, the percentage of Americans identifying as Protestants had dropped below 50 percent.
Of Protestant lawmakers, the largest share (14 percent) identified themselves as Baptist, and another 11 percent identified as "unspecified/other" Protestant. Only three members of the 113th Congress specified that they belong to nondenominational Protestant churches.
But the 113th Congress likely will be remembered for its increased religious diversity. Catholics still hold 30 percent of the seats (a larger proportion than their roughly 25 percent of the population), and Jews hold 6 percent of seats. But 15 Mormons now hold almost 3 percent of the seats.
In addition, the Senate will receive its first Buddhist senator—Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii), who is also the first Asian-American woman elected to Senate—and the House will receive the first Hindu representative in either legislative chamber, Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii). Meanwhile, Kyrsten Sinema, an Arizona Democrat, will become the House's first religiously unaffiliated member.
CT previously reported on the dramatic increase in religiously unaffiliated Americans, as well as on evangelicals' political unity following the elections on Nov. 6.