A new Per Research Centre study shows that only 535 members of the new Congress have nonreligious beliefs. This represents 0.2% of Congress. Nationally one in five Americans are nonreligious and this is not reflected in the makeup of Congress.
The study also shows that 91% of congress is Christian, while 71% of the U.S classifies itself as Christian. For the purposes of the research, only representatives that stated they were agnostic, atheist, or describe their religion in terms such as “nothing in particular” were classed as “unaffiliated”.
Reasons for the under representations range from most “unaffiliated” people tend to be on the younger side and not really politically motivated. This could mean that as more millennials enter Congress the balance will shift.
Interestingly, Arizona Democratic Rep. Kyrsten Sinema is also quite young. She admitted to stating “unaffiliated” in the study.
Margie Omero, a Democratic strategist at Purple Strategies, believes that religion has more of a political structure. She said, “They may be unaffiliated; they may be atheist; they may be agnostic … but they’re not part of some club. You could certainly argue that evangelicals are not monolithic in terms of their policy beliefs, but there’s no denying that there’s more of an organization around organized religion than there is around disorganized atheism.”
Another reason that has been put forward is that atheists don’t seem to poll well. One poll form Gallup asked what type of people they would vote for, and what type of people they would not vote for. Around 58% of those polled said they would vote for an atheist. That does not seem like a massive number but it is actually a record high.
Atheism is only marginally better than socialist at 47% but is yet to scale the giddy heights of Muslim, 60%.
One poll from 2014 from Pew showed that 50% would be less likely to vote for an atheist.
Although being nonreligious is not necessarily a vote winner now the signs show it is beginning to shift.