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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. Barnetbw

    Hey, idiot, separation of church and state. Liberal minded folks should not get to have it both ways. Folks scream when the word God is mentioned at public schools anymore. You force the majority to open academies just so they can raise their kids with some morals. Don't start saying the minorities are not being represented in government because more of one religious group is there than another. Seems like you want to shoehorn some obscure religion or atheistic belief into government. Even Atheism in itself is a set of beliefs that there are no supreme, supernatural beings. You do not want believers to push their beliefs on you, stop pushing yours on us. In my opinion, it is what is partially responsible for the corruption and decadence that this country has seen lower its greatness. Keep your, "Oh my, too many believers in the government." , BS to yourself. Every one of the news outlets try to twist someones opinion. Why don't you folks allow the top five parties the opportunity to debate instead of the Democrats and Republicans by themselves. Agenda laden, spin-doctoring, pieces of liberal filth. Forward this to the conservative filth as well....

    November 17, 2012 at 1:56 am |
    • Rogue351

      Last time I checked we are a nation of immigrants and have been for some time. News flash, Idiot. Not everyone believes in god. And if we are the melting pot of the world then all religions are welcome here. NOT just Christian, so unless you want to list out every single god people prey to or believe in then the most cost effective answer is to stop fighting about a make believe man in the sky and more on to issues that really matter. If we are one nation under god then we should define that god. And since we cant it is better to remove the term god and let people worship whomever they want. Just because one person believes in god and Jesus and another does not or believes in butterflies does not make that person any less of an American. Try and get they into your think skull. It is not an issue. If you want to teach your kids about god do it in the home not in a public school and certainly not with our government.

      November 17, 2012 at 2:10 am |
  2. concerned about media direction

    i am done with CNN!!

    November 17, 2012 at 1:56 am |
    • Mike

      I second that ... its game over for the fourth estate.

      November 17, 2012 at 1:57 am |
    • Leif

      Try expressing your opinion on the FoxNews website. Good luck with that. They have no forums.

      November 17, 2012 at 2:02 am |
  3. Mike

    What this m0r0n author seems to be suggesting is a quota system to replace elections where the system allocates or reserves 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 1:54 am |
    • Leif

      Spamming the same opinion does not increase its value.

      November 17, 2012 at 2:38 am |
  4. Mike

    Lets see Jews are over-represented in -

    – politics
    – judiciary
    – wall street / banking
    – legal profession
    – media / entertainment / hollywood
    - business / CEOs

    How come we do not see any articles on that topic? Wait, I answered that above - because they are over-represented in MEDIA ... LOL ... so how can media write such articles .... HYPOCRISY EXPOSED ....

    November 17, 2012 at 1:53 am |
    • End Religion

      Wow, Mike, you're on a tear with your racist posts. Must be a record.

      November 17, 2012 at 1:55 am |
    • Richard

      Even though they no longer need the oil (Canada, domestic and Venezuela can supply the U.S. with all they need) they continue to waste money and lives in the Middle East, along with continued antagonizing of Mulsims who in-turn pose even greater danger to the U.S. The ONLY reason they are still there is because powerful Jewish-Israeli interests hold great sway over the American political and financial landscape.

      November 17, 2012 at 1:57 am |
    • Richard

      Hey, End Religion. The JEWS do not consider themselves as a race but a religion. So you point is "pointless."

      November 17, 2012 at 1:58 am |
    • Mike

      @End Religion -

      And this article about white protestants is NOT racist? You bring up similar over-representation point about Jews and it becomes racist and this m0r0n authors is protesting about elected protestants and that is not racist??

      Hypocrisy much? Exposed!

      November 17, 2012 at 2:00 am |
    • End Religion

      Call it what you want. Your hatred for groups that are not like you is transparent. Back to your bunker. We'll let you know when 4 years is up so you can come lose the Presidential vote again next year.

      November 17, 2012 at 2:22 am |
    • Leif

      The article presents a few facts. They are presented calmly and without any vitriol. If you are having trouble digesting what the word "fact" means, look it up in a dictionary. If you can point to one false statement in this article, do so.

      November 17, 2012 at 2:25 am |
    • Mike

      Leif

      My post on Jews is also presenting some facts on their over-representation. Dont react too emotionally to it.

      November 17, 2012 at 4:27 am |
    • End Religion

      Mike, please post the data supporting your "facts".

      November 17, 2012 at 11:40 am |
  5. Rogue351

    The president was elected by both the electoral vote and the popular vote, same as last time. The people have spoken and congress had better listen. I for one am sick of politics, it is time to get something done. Rather you are right or left the past four years have proven one thing. Neither side is going to get their own way 100% of the time. That means meeting in the middle is better than nothing. Because when the congress does nothing it is not them that suffer it is the people, the large majority of the people whom are not rich and not poor. Stop letting political parties rule, stop letting favors to big companies dictate our country. Separation of church and states. The Republicans may have said if you don't vote along party lines you are out. Well guess what, if you don't vote and don't come to some sort of agreement you are out. Do the job you were elected to do. And if you cant do the right thing at least do something. Stop the finger pointing and hate radio. Stop the religious politics, Stop the big corporations directing those who we have elected. Hold there feet to the fire and get it sorted out one way or another. Ideals are not going to get this great country very far if there is no country left because of your stupid 3rd grade antics. DO YOUR JOB. And if you cant do your job there are plenty of people out there willing to try and collect a nice salary and lifetime healthcare. DO YOUR JOB. Respect the president, you can disagree, you don't even have to like him. BUT YOU DO HAVE TO WORK WITH HIM. Like it or not he was elected by the people for the people. CONGRESS DO YOUR JOB.

    November 17, 2012 at 1:52 am |
  6. Mike

    CNN, if you have any integrity left - fire this m0r0n immediately - he is insane.

    November 17, 2012 at 1:50 am |
  7. Boofie

    Why did this piece even see the light of day?

    November 17, 2012 at 1:48 am |
    • End Religion

      To garner page views and ad impressions. Congrats for proving it was wise to let it see the light of day.

      November 17, 2012 at 1:53 am |
  8. Mike

    What this m0r0n author seems to be suggesting is a quote system to replace elections where the system allocates or reserves 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 1:48 am |
    • Leif

      In which paragraph does he suggest that? In which sentence?

      November 17, 2012 at 1:59 am |
    • Mike

      @Leif -

      read this in the article, "Yes, the Senate will be 20% female, but women are more than 50% of the population."

      November 17, 2012 at 2:02 am |
    • Leif

      You didn't answer my question. Where does he suggest a quota system? He merely pointed out a fact. Or do you deny that women make up roughly 50% of the population?

      November 17, 2012 at 2:04 am |
    • Mike

      @Leif -

      he is clearly protesting that women make up for more than 50% of the population but only 20% of the senate? isnt he clearly implying that women as a gender group should have a proportional representation in the senate? is that not the same as forcing that representation through QUOTA if IT CANNOT BE ACHIEVED BY ELECTIONS AS WE HAVE TODAY?

      November 17, 2012 at 2:07 am |
    • Leif

      He does not at any point propose a quota system. At most, he is hinting that it would be nice if Congress more accurately represented the population. It is an ideal to be hoped for. You are putting words in his mouth that reflect your own fear.

      November 17, 2012 at 2:11 am |
    • Mike

      @Leif -

      there is no value in hoping for such an ideal as this author is proposing and you are embracing ... the ideal of democracy is to elect the best suited candidates to the congress .. irrespective of race, gender, religion and orientation ... the misplaced value that this author is trying to put on diversity has no place in values of democracy ....

      November 17, 2012 at 2:19 am |
    • Leif

      What makes you think the current Congress contains the best and brightest? I grant you that Akin didn't win, and that is a step in the right direction. There are still plenty of ignorant people in government.

      November 17, 2012 at 2:33 am |
  9. Jim

    Really? This is your take on the Congress? All the issues floating around, and you think voters should start deciding on the basis of religion?

    November 17, 2012 at 1:46 am |
    • JOHN

      This is how some people view their "little" world. Why... it is an injustice that this should be occurring in America! Let's inform the nation, no the world that those white, protestant, males are trying to keep us out of office. America has become a tragic comedy. Our families, courts, education, government.... look there and you'll see the real injustice.

      November 17, 2012 at 2:02 am |
  10. gman

    The author is a fool. Congress will represent what the voters want it to represent; unless of course if the left wants to implement rules to force a cap on white people.

    November 17, 2012 at 1:45 am |
    • Leif

      Congress is a reflection of the fact that the people in power in each state draw congressional districts designed to keep them in power.

      November 17, 2012 at 1:48 am |
  11. Mike

    This author certainly belongs to the breed that hate the race and religion they were born into. It is one of the symptoms of the mental illness called "liberalism".

    November 17, 2012 at 1:44 am |
    • Leif

      You certainly have no idea what you are talking about.

      November 17, 2012 at 1:47 am |
    • Mike

      @Leif -

      making baseless statements? you have no important point or counter-argument to contribute? except to make empty assertions?

      November 17, 2012 at 2:03 am |
    • Leif

      I can make assertions without using emotionally charged insults like "m0r0n". You might actually have a valid point to make. You should make it without the venom.

      November 17, 2012 at 2:46 am |
  12. Mike

    Jews are certainly overwhelmingly over-represented in politics, legal profession, wall street, business and media/entertainment. You point that out in name of proportional diversity and you get labeled a racist or an anti-semite. Yet this guy can get away with spewing similar venom against protestants.

    November 17, 2012 at 1:44 am |
    • Spinbackle

      WASPs, especially males, are the only safe target these days. That's why he stayed away from focusing on anyone else.

      November 17, 2012 at 1:55 am |
    • Leif

      Where is the venom? Only you are using words like "m0r0n" . If you have a calm, rational argument to make, then make it.

      November 17, 2012 at 2:43 am |
  13. God

    Remove all the religious idiots from congress. Some can get some non sheep, people that enjoy thinking, to run this country. N all your religious nuts go suck of your pedo priest n cry to someone else. Religion is trash

    November 17, 2012 at 1:41 am |
    • Boofie

      Obnoxious prik!

      November 17, 2012 at 1:43 am |
  14. Harry

    The Democratic Party is the same today as the old Communist Party. It is lead by Barry "Barack" Obama..............

    November 17, 2012 at 1:41 am |
  15. Liberatedearth

    What a ridiculous article, it's ok if protestants represent atheists, it's ok if Jews represent Catholics, it's ok if blacks represent whites, the goal should be to elect the most qualified person with the best ideas. This diversity craziness only works to separate people. Who cares what religion someone is, as long as they make good leaders that's all that matters.

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

    This is a fairly common genre troll for CNN. One can always find publicity seeking experts to write such things. Everyone notices the dimness of the article, but almost all of us have to notice that it was effective in pulling our triggers. CNN thrives on this sort of thing. More hits. More comments. Even me. In an age of 24/7 news/entertainment, no one can tell the difference between good writing and poor writing, anymore, or between news and entertainment, not even the editors and publishers. Everything is delivered in order to get us to bite. And here I am, falling for it again. I've got to get a life.

    November 17, 2012 at 1:40 am |
  17. John

    Left wing whites have an intense hatred of their own race. No other race in the world has a group that supports their own racial demise. These leftists are nuts and sick in the head.
    Why did I have to be born into the race that wants to commit suicide?

    November 17, 2012 at 1:40 am |
    • Mike

      You hit the nail on the head. This author certainly belongs to the breed that hate the race and religion they were born into. It is one of the symptoms of the mental illness called "liberalism".

      November 17, 2012 at 1:42 am |
  18. Mike

    This author clearly wants quotas / reservations to replace elections - because the protestants in Congress are elected officials per American democratic system.

    November 17, 2012 at 1:40 am |
  19. Triny

    This article is a joke. I won't even bother to say why (much in the fashion of the aforementioned "article".)

    November 17, 2012 at 1:40 am |
  20. chris

    now this is rich, years of hearing about jewish over representation in various sections of our culture and society and each time the person is labeled a bigot....and here is this moron doing the same thing but protestants...

    November 17, 2012 at 1:40 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.