Even as they are elected to represent the people at large, the members of Congress are more likely to belong to the elite classes they often deride in their campaigning.
Notably, approximately 50 percent of the members of Congress are millionaires, while only 10 percent of the general public has that kind of money. In a 2021 count, 17 percent of Senators and 12 percent of House members had degrees from Ivy League schools; 179 had law degrees; 44 had MBAs; and 17 were medical doctors.
In 2023, the way the seated members of Congress are statistically anomalous is that a far higher percentage of them identify as Christians than the American public.
In a Jan. 3 analysis, Religion News Service reported:
Christians comprise 88% of the voting members of the 118th Congress who are expected to be sworn in this week (week of Jan. 3), a number that has not changed much since the 1970s, when 91% of members said they were affiliated with that faith.
The American population, on the other hand, has seen a drop in those identifying as Christians, from 78% in 2007 to 63% currently. Close to 3 in 10 Americans (29%) say they are religiously unaffiliated — atheist, agnostic or “nothing in particular” — a far larger portion than 16% in 2007.
Only one Senator, Arizona’s Sen. Krysten Sinema, identifies as unaffiliated. Another congressman, California’s Rep. Jared Huffman, identifies as a humanist. The House has 24 Jewish members, three Muslims, three Unitarians, two Hindus, one Buddhist, and one member who identifies as Messianic Jewish.
In the Senate, one member is Buddhist and nine are Jewish.
The House has six Mormon members, and the Senate has three.
Here are some of the other findings related to Congress’ religious makeup:
- Both chambers are dominated by Christians numerically.
- Almost all Republicans — 268 out of 271 — and three quarters of Democrats — 201 of 263 — identify themselves as Christians.
- All nine members of Congress who are Mormons are Republicans while Orthodox Christians are evenly split, with four from each major political party.
- Almost two-thirds (64%) of newcomers to Congress are Protestant; a bit more than half (55%) of incumbents identify with that branch of Christianity.
- There are fewer Catholic first-timers than returning members of Congress (22% compared with 29%).
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