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Faith On The Hill: Religious Makeup Of The New Congress Looks Like The Old

New Congress

First Posted: 01/05/11 05:01 PM ET Updated: 05/25/11 07:25 PM ET

Many analysts described the November 2010 midterm elections as a sea change, with Republicans taking control of the U.S. House of Representatives and narrowing the Democratic majority in the Senate. But this political overhaul appears to have had little effect on the religious composition of Congress, which is similar to the religious makeup of the previous Congress and of the nation, according to an analysis by the Pew Research Center's Forum on Religion & Public Life.

The 112th Congress, 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 are in the country as a whole.

A few of the country's religious groups, including Episcopalians, Presbyterians and Jews, have greater numerical representation in Congress than in the general population. Some others, such as Buddhists and Muslims, are represented in Congress in roughly equal proportion to their numbers in the adult U.S. population. And some small religious groups, such as Hindus and Jehovah's Witnesses, are not represented at all in Congress.

The greatest disparity between the religious makeup of Congress and the people it represents, however, is in the percentage of the unaffiliated -- those who describe their religion as atheist, agnostic or "nothing in particular." Only six members of the 112th Congress (about 1 percent) do not specify a religious affiliation and none say they are unaffiliated. By contrast, about one-sixth (16 percent) of U.S. adults are not affiliated with any particular faith.

The findings are based on a comparison of the religious affiliations of members of the new Congress with data on the U.S. public from the U.S. Religious Landscape Survey, conducted by the Pew Forum in 2007 among more than 35,000 U.S. adults, and information gathered by CQ Roll Call on the religious affiliations of members of Congress through questionnaires and follow-up phone calls to members' offices.

More information is available at "Faith on the Hill: The Religious Composition of the 112th Congress", including a downloadable graphic depicting the religious makeup of the new Congress.

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Filed by Bryan Maygers  |