Atheists, Agnostics, Nonreligious Remain Far Underrepresented In US Congress : NPR
2017/01/05 1 Comment
Interesting comparison between the US Congress and the population it represents (in Canada, it is about one in four). In terms of the religion of Canadian MPs, my analysis of visible minority MPs is below:
That’s what the latest data from the Pew Research Center show on the opening day of the 115th Congress. The nation’s top legislative body remains far more male and white than the rest of the U.S. population as well, but religion is one of the more invisible areas where legislators in Washington simply aren’t representative of the people they represent.
Only Arizona Democratic Rep. Kyrsten Sinema admits to being “unaffiliated,” which Pew defines as people who are atheist, agnostic or who describe their religion as “nothing in particular.” That means only 0.2 percent of Congress is unaffiliated, compared with 23 percent of U.S. adults. That group is faster-growing than any religious group in America, as Pew found in 2015.
Meanwhile, nearly 91 percent of congressional members are Christian, compared with 71 percent of U.S. adults. Here’s a full breakdown of how Congress’ religious affiliations compare with those of the U.S. population:America’s nonreligious are young — and not politically organized
Why the massive gap? For one, religiously unaffiliated people tend to be young, and Congress just isn’t that young. In the 114th Congress, the average age for House members was 57 years old and for senators it was 61. (To a modest extent, this is a reflection of age rules: Senators must be 30 or older, and representatives have to be at least 25.)
In addition, younger Americans tend to have much lower voting rates than older people. That may also contribute, though the logic requires a couple of leaps — if this means the (relatively young) religiously unaffiliated population isn’t voting as much, and if the religiously unaffiliated are more drawn to likewise unaffiliated politicians — that could also help explain the lack of “nones” in Congress. Likewise, the inverse is true: If older (and more religious) Americans are voting for more religious politicians, it means less room for the nonreligious ones.
(Perhaps unsurprisingly, the unaffiliated Sinema is also relatively young for a congressional member at 40.)
One more potential reason unaffiliated people aren’t in power: Not being affiliated often also means not being politically cohesive.