Religious makeup of the new Congress overwhelmingly Christian

Pope Francis addresses a joint meeting of the U.S. Congress in the House Chamber on Capitol Hill in Washington on September 24, 2015. Photo courtesy of REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst *Editors: This photo may only be republished with RNS-POPE-CONGRESS, originally transmitted on Sept. 24, 2015.

(RNS) The United States Congress is about as Christian today as it was in the early 1960s, according to a new analysis by Pew Research Center.

Nearly 91 percent of members of the 115th Congress convening Tuesday (Jan. 3) describe themselves as Christian, compared to 95 percent of Congress members serving from 1961 to 1962, according to congressional data compiled by CQ Roll Call and analyzed by Pew.

That comes even as the share of Americans who describe themselves as Christian (now at 71 percent) has dropped in that time, Pew researchers noted.

And, as a whole, Congress is far more religiously affiliated than the general public.

“Why have the ‘nones’ grown in the public, but not among Congress?” asked Greg Smith, associate director for research at Pew, referring to people who check “none” on surveys asking their religion.

“One possible explanation is people tell us they would rather vote for an elected representative who is religious than for one who is not religious.”

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