The share of U.S. adults who describe themselves as Christians has been declining for decades, but the U.S. Congress is about as Christian today as it was in the early 1960s, according to a new analysis by Pew Research Center. Indeed, among members of the new, 115th Congress, 91% describe themselves as Christians. This is nearly the same percentage as in the 87th Congress (1961 to 1962, the earliest years for which comparable data are available), when 95% of members were Christian.
Among the 293 Republicans elected to serve in the new, 115th Congress, all but two identify as Christians; there are two Jewish Republicans – Lee Zeldin of New York and David Kustoff of Tennessee – who both serve in the House. Democrats in Congress also are overwhelmingly Christian (80%), but there is more religious diversity on this side of the aisle. The 242 Democrats in Congress include 28 Jews, three Buddhists, three Hindus, two Muslims and one Unitarian Universalist – as well as the only member of Congress to describe herself as religiously unaffiliated, Rep. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz. In addition, all 10 members of Congress who decline to state their religious affiliation are Democrats.
Like the nation as a whole, Congress has become much less Protestant over time. The total percentage of Protestants in Congress has dropped from 75% in 1961 (at the beginning of the 87th Congress) to 56% today. During this period, the share of Catholics in Congress has gone from 19% to 31%.
Fully two-thirds of Republicans in the new Congress (67%) are Protestant, while 27% are Catholic. The breakdown between Protestants and Catholics is more even among the Democrats; 42% of the Democratic members are Protestants and 37% are Catholics.