The religious makeup of the 115th Congress is significantly Christian — 91 percent — with Catholics comprising one-third of the House of Representatives and about a quarter of the Senate.
Overall, there are six fewer Christians in the new Congress, at 485
But there are four more Catholics, who now total 168.
The high percentage of Christians in Congress is similar to the 87th
Congress in 1961, when such information was first collected.
time, 95 percent of Congress members were Christian.
The data on the religious makeup of the current senators and
representatives was collected by Pew Research Center and announced Jan.
The Pew report notes that the large number of Christians in Congress
has shifted in recent years with a decline in the number of Protestants.
In 1961, Protestants made up 87 percent of Congress, compared with 56
Catholics, conversely, made up 19 percent of the 87th
Congress, and now are 31 percent of the legislative body.
Looking at each party, two-thirds, or 67 percent, of Republicans in
the new Congress are Protestant and 27 percent of Republicans are
Catholic. The breakdown between Protestants and Catholics is more evenly
divided among the Democrats: 42 percent are Protestant and 37 percent
Of the 293 Republicans in the new Congress, all but two, who are
Jewish, are Christian. Democrats in Congress also are predominantly
Christian — 80 percent — but they have more religious diversity among
The 242 Democrat Congress members include 28 Jews, three Buddhists,
three Hindus, two Muslims and one Unitarian Universalist in addition to
one religiously unaffiliated member and 10 who declined to state their
Overall, the new Congress has seven fewer Protestants than the last
Congress. Baptists had the biggest losses — down seven seats — followed
by Anglicans and Episcopalians — down six seats.
Among non-Christian religious groups, Jews and Hindus had the biggest
gains — an increase of two seats each. Jews now hold 30 seats in
Congress. The number of Hindus rose from one to three and the number of
Buddhists increased from two to three.
The number of Muslims in Congress — two — remained unchanged.
The new legislative group also has the smallest freshman class of any
Congress in the past 10 years with 62 new members joining the 473
returnees. Of the new members, half are Protestant and roughly a third
The Pew report points out that some religious groups, including
Protestants, Catholics and Jews, have greater representation in Congress
than in the general population.
Jews, for example, make up 2 percent of
the U.S. adult population but account for 6 percent of Congress.
groups — including Buddhists, Mormons, Muslims and Orthodox Christians —
are represented in Congress in roughly equal proportion to their
numbers in the U.S. public.
Another significant finding is that the most notably underrepresented
group in Congress is the religiously unaffiliated.
This group — also
known as religious “nones” — account for 23 percent of the general
public but makes up just 0.2 percent of the 115th Congress.