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My Take: 113th Congress looks like old America
November 16th, 2012
12:01 PM ET

My Take: 113th Congress looks like old America

Editor's Note: Stephen Prothero, a Boston University religion scholar and author of "The American Bible: How Our Words Unite, Divide, and Define a Nation," is a regular CNN Belief Blog contributor.

By Stephen Prothero, Special to CNN

(CNN) - The 2012 election has been widely hailed as a diversity moment — a coming out party for an American electorate no longer dominated by white men. And it was a triumph as well for religious diversity, thanks especially to Hawaii, which is sending the first Hindu to the House and the first Buddhist to the Senate.

But is this religious change more symbolic than real? In “Faith on the Hill,” a study on religion in the 113th Congress released Friday by the Pew Forum, the story seems to be static rather than change.

For all the talk of the election of 2012 inaugurating a new era in American politics, Protestants will continue to be overrepresented on Capitol Hill, where they will account for 56% of our representatives versus only 48% of American adults.

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Moreover, the religiously unaffiliated will continue to be scandalously underrepresented in the 113th Congress. Though 20% of American adults are “nones,” there is only one “none” (Arizona Democrat Kyrsten Sinema) in the new congressional delegation.

That said, there are striking differences between Democrats and Republicans in the incoming 113th Congress.

The GOP delegation will be 69% Protestant, while Protestants will account for only 43% of the Democrats. Mormons also lean heavily Republican, with three Democrats versus 12 members of the GOP.

Catholics, by contrast, lean Democratic, accounting for 36% congressional Democrats and 25% of congressional Republicans. Moreover, all the Muslims, Hindus and Buddhists in the incoming Congress are Democrats. And all but one of the 32 Jewish members (Virginia Republican Eric Cantor) are, too.

The bottom line? I see two takeaways.

First, this data provides evidence for the now common wisdom that Republicans represent old-fashioned America while Democrats reflect new demographic realities. In the 113th Congress, Republicans will be disproportionately male and disproportionately Protestant. Democrats, by contrast, have a higher portion of women and minority religions.

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Second, this data shows that the much heralded “new America” is still years away. Yes, the Senate will be 20% female, but women are more than 50% of the population. And the U.S. Congress will still be far more Christian (87%) than U.S. adults as a whole (70%).

At least when it comes to religion, the U.S. Congress doesn't yet look like the voters who are sending them to Washington.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Stephen Prothero.

- CNN Belief Blog contributor

Filed under: 2012 Election • Catholic Church • Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints • Judaism • Politics • Polls • United States

soundoff (1,540 Responses)
  1. Mike

    What this m0r0n author seems to be suggesting is this - lets allocate the representation in Congress in proportion to racial groups, gender groups and religious groups. Divide the nation along all possible lines – race, gender, religion, orientation and find out how much representation in Congress we need to reserve for each group. Then we would not even need elections .. each group can then simply nominate their representatives to Congress.

    Clearly this is what this m0r0n seems to be suggesting ... what a joke this guy is! Cant believe he gets paid and makes a living off of writing such divisive load of bull.

    November 17, 2012 at 1:37 am |
    • End Religion

      isn't this like the 8th time you've posted your garbage?

      November 17, 2012 at 1:52 am |
    • Mike

      @End Religion -

      this important point needs to be emphasized to counter CNN's racist propaganda ... CNN gets to repeatedly broadcast its racial garbage day after day ... i get to repeat my comment in the comments section a few times.

      November 17, 2012 at 1:56 am |
  2. Mike

    This author is one of those breed who hate the race group and religion they were born into.

    November 17, 2012 at 1:35 am |
    • End Religion

      Please post the documentation proving your assertion. We'll need to see the author admitting that he hates his race and his religion otherwise you risk us writing you off as a lunatic.

      November 17, 2012 at 2:12 am |
  3. Brian

    With all that is going on in the world, this is the topic of a story? Go back to Journalism 101 and study "Get a Life!"

    November 17, 2012 at 1:35 am |
  4. Mike

    Looks like the author would not be pleased until white protestant representation in the Congress is wiped out 100%. Clearly a hater. How does he get paid for writing such bull sh1t is anyone guess? CNN keeps falling to lows with its racist and atheist agenda.

    November 17, 2012 at 1:34 am |
  5. mrdavenport

    Those who identify as non-denominational are really Protestant.

    FTR selfhaters are pathetic.

    November 17, 2012 at 1:34 am |
  6. lol

    Those "White male protestants" are elected officials. Is the idiot author of this opinion piece seriously suggesting we get rid of voting and democracy for affirmative action in politics?
    Yeah, just can the voting system and put a quota on race congress. Great idea! To hell with peoples right to choose their representatives!

    November 17, 2012 at 1:33 am |
    • Mike

      You hit the nail on the head. CNN should show this idiotic author the door.

      November 17, 2012 at 1:38 am |
    • Joshua Powell

      Not until this country drives all white, male Republicans out of its borders. Not until our government and every office in it is controlled by a non-white. Not until we open our borders freely for all who want to enter our country illegally. Not until Spanish is the most widely spoken language. Not until we have socialist health care. Not until whites are sent to "re-educations" camps. Not until all this, will liberals and democrats be happy. God Bless America????

      November 17, 2012 at 1:40 am |
  7. Chris

    The auther is missing the point that these are elected oficials and VOTERS are christian. The religously underrespresented don't vote so its on them. Check your exit polls.

    November 17, 2012 at 1:29 am |
    • Adam

      Diversity is NOT a Value. A variety of backgrounds, ethnicities and religious affiliations do not have any bearing on the chosen and expressed Values of individuals or a body politic. Until this column's author understands that Diversity is neither good nor bad, but instead it is a way to Avoid discussing what actually achieves goodness in a society, CNN will be able to make the left feel good. BTW, even though this author loves Diversity, he could never hold a "Dean of Diversity" faculty position BECAUSE of his exclusive skin color. Oops; did I just point out that Diversity lovers are exclusive? Yeah, I did. Facts over Feelings every time.

      November 17, 2012 at 1:48 am |
    • Mike

      @Adam -

      very well said. kudos!

      November 17, 2012 at 2:13 am |
  8. rhondajo3

    That would be because the majority of Americans ARE Protestant!!!!! HELLLOOOOOOOOOOOO

    November 17, 2012 at 1:27 am |
    • bd3517

      HELLLOOOOOOOOOOOO, 48% is not a majority.

      November 17, 2012 at 1:34 am |
    • Athy

      It is if no one else has a greater percentage. Hello??

      November 17, 2012 at 1:41 am |
  9. What the?

    Obama one the reelection and left wingers are still whining? Did CNN expect every white man to suddenly fall dead or something? Does CNN think that we should all just empty our bank accounts, give our money to blacks and disappear from society? Oh crap! There are still white males in congress! We should write an article about it! How dare they still exist?

    November 17, 2012 at 1:27 am |
    • rhondajo3

      "one the election"???? Seriously?? Ummmmm that would be WON!!! And that is HOW he won! By ignorant, uneducated voters like you, who are becoming the "dumning down of America voters..." who are becoming the MAJORITY!!

      November 17, 2012 at 1:30 am |
    • Mr. Gumby

      I see only the author whining about that...and why are you bringing up blacks?

      November 17, 2012 at 1:34 am |
    • End Religion

      Rhonda Jo, you let the Talibangelicals take over your party, which is why you lost. Oh, and a word of advice: never trust someone with 2 first names.

      November 17, 2012 at 1:35 am |
    • What the?

      Ah ok, so not dropping dead after obama won the reelection means I'm an "uneducated, ignorant" voter.

      Another left wing racist exposed.

      November 17, 2012 at 1:36 am |
    • BillyJack Smith

      Hey, pal, I resemble that remark!

      November 17, 2012 at 1:36 am |
    • Mr. Gumby

      Rhondajo wrote, "“dumning down of America voters..."
      Hey, cupcake, before calling anyone ignorant because they wrote one instead of won, maybe you ought to make sure your own spelling is pristine.

      November 17, 2012 at 1:43 am |
  10. Mike

    Why dont we allocate the representation in Congress in proportion to racial groups, gender groups and religious groups? Divide the nation along all possible lines - race, gender, religion, orientation and find out how much representation in Congress we need to reserve for each group. Then we would not need elections .. each group can then nominate their representatives to Congress.

    Seems like this is what this m0r0n seems to be suggesting ... what a joke this guy is! Cant believe he gets paid and makes a living off of writing such divisive load of bull.

    November 17, 2012 at 1:27 am |
    • Brenda

      He makes a living writing such drivel because he is able to catch the attention of the ordinary reader. Please notice that there is no substance whatsoever in the article; it is all just "poof."

      November 17, 2012 at 1:40 am |
    • End Religion

      Mike, *you* are why he gets paid. His objective is to write stuff that makes you come and read, then comment, to create more page views and ad impressions. You're here. He succeeded.

      November 17, 2012 at 1:45 am |
  11. rhondajo3

    That would be because the MAJORITY

    November 17, 2012 at 1:26 am |
    • End Religion

      where's Thing 1 and 2, Rhondajo3?

      November 17, 2012 at 1:44 am |
  12. massoud

    In a six year span AIPAC donated the Chicken Hawk, "Independent" Senator Joe Lieberman over $ 1 Million dollars. Joe wants war with Iran, even though our country has a $16 Trillion Dollar national debt and our troops are fatigued from fighting in multiple wars and having had multiple in deployments the past 10 years.We dont want your Wars nor International Coalitions sending our troops to police the world in a no win situation.

    November 17, 2012 at 1:25 am |
  13. DocReality

    It's CNN, so you have to decipher the codes. Protestant = White.

    Frankly, I think they're all too damn old and are in strong need of some term limits...and pension limits as well.

    Washington IS the "one percent!"

    November 17, 2012 at 1:23 am |
  14. moe smith

    religion shouldnt even be a concern. anyone who is concerned, needs to GTFOver themselves.

    November 17, 2012 at 1:23 am |
    • LinCA

      @moe smith

      You said, "religion shouldnt even be a concern."
      Having people who still believe in fairy tales setting rules for the whole society is most certainly a concern.

      November 17, 2012 at 1:26 am |
    • Mike

      @LinCA -

      intolerant atheists like will not be pleased until everyone has to be an atheist to be elected to COngress. Get lost m0r0n!

      November 17, 2012 at 1:28 am |
    • LinCA

      @Mike

      You said, "intolerant atheists like will not be pleased until everyone has to be an atheist to be elected to COngress."
      Getting atheists elected would be a good start. But, contrary to popular belief, atheists typically don't try to deny anyone the right to believe whatever nonsense they want. You are free to believe whatever bullshit you fancy. Go right ahead, stupidity isn't illegal. Just keep your delusion to yourself, please.

      While I respect your right to believe whatever you want, your beliefs deserve no such respect.

      You said, "Get lost m0r0n!"
      Right back at you.

      November 17, 2012 at 1:33 am |
    • Mike

      How tolerant of you of religious diversity ... you want caliphate of atheism - clearly ..

      November 17, 2012 at 1:54 am |
  15. Mike

    What about some diversity in CNN organization ... less racists and atheists ... more representation to patriotic americans and believers.

    November 17, 2012 at 1:23 am |
    • SB

      The truly hilarious thing is that the irony of your own post is lost on you.

      November 17, 2012 at 1:32 am |
    • End Religion

      the irony is so perfect if we could frame it we might be able to sell it as art.

      November 17, 2012 at 1:41 am |
  16. Mike

    Election is over but CNN continues its racial and religious division policies ... what nonsense ... is this m0r0n suggesting we need to have affirmative action or reservation in COngress. what load of bull .. CNN cut of this guy ... and enough with your division

    November 17, 2012 at 1:21 am |
  17. DNC

    When will the libs be happy? Not until there is a hammer & sickle on our flag!

    November 17, 2012 at 1:21 am |
    • End Religion

      May I propose some new colours for our flag, comrade?

      November 17, 2012 at 1:39 am |
  18. Jeff

    And there are zero Protestants on the U.S. Supreme Court. Where's the outcry for that?

    November 17, 2012 at 1:21 am |
    • DNC

      Very good point!

      November 17, 2012 at 1:22 am |
    • LinCA

      @Jeff

      You said, "And there are zero Protestants on the U.S. Supreme Court. Where's the outcry for that?"
      It's a good start. Unfortunately they were replaced with catholics and jews. Not much of an improvement.

      November 17, 2012 at 1:28 am |
  19. vgs1895

    Hmmmn. Maybe the author had a different ballot than I did. My ballot didn't have anyone's religion on it. I *think* I just voted for the person, not the religion. So now we're not allowed to vote for someone in case he or she might be a Protestant?

    November 17, 2012 at 1:20 am |
    • DNC

      Another very good point! CNN quit trying to shape the news!

      November 17, 2012 at 1:23 am |
  20. jojo

    How about some diversity for the head of the Federal Reserve

    November 17, 2012 at 1:19 am |
    • massoud

      Yeah I love that idea after all Jesus did whip the money changers out of the temple

      November 17, 2012 at 3:20 am |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.