Jews had a bad year in terms of winning seats in Congress, falling from 39 members in both chambers in the 112th Congress to only 32 in the next one.
We pretty much predicted this outcome. But with the breakdown of the new Congress by religion, which was carried out by the Pew Forum it becomes clear that Jews fared worse than any other faith group in the 2012 elections.
“The biggest decline is among Jews,” the research states, falling from 7% of Congress before the elections to 6% in the upcoming Congress which will be sworn-in in January.
Catholics stand out as the religious groups making the greatest gains, with 161 members in the 113th Congress, compared to 156 in the 112th, a trend that may be linked to the increased clout of Latino voters.
Catholics and Jews are all over-represented in Congress compared to their share in the population. This is especially true for Jews, who hold 6% of the House and Senate seats while only having a 2% share of the American population, Episcopalians who are also only 2% of the population and make up 7.2% of Congress and Presbyterians (8.1% of Congress and 3% of population.) Pentecostals, on the other hand, are under-represented and there are no members of Congress that are Jehovah’s Witnesses.
The 2012 election did bring, however, more religious diversity to Capitol Hill, with the first ever Hindu (Hawaii Democrat Tulsi Gabbard,) and the first Buddhist in Senate (Mazie Hirono, also from Hawaii).
According to Pew, there’s also first-ever member of Congress to describe her religion as “none.” That would be Arizona Democrat Krysten Sinema, an aethiest, who is also the first openly bisexual representative. In a completing-the-circle twist, Sinema beat two Jewish candidates in a Democratic primary to get a shot at the seat.
Nathan Guttman, staff writer, is the Forward’s Washington bureau chief. He joined the staff in 2006 after serving for five years as Washington correspondent for the Israeli dailies Haaretz and The Jerusalem Post. In Israel, he was the features editor for Ha’aretz and chief editor of Channel 1 TV evening news. He was born in Canada and grew up in Israel. He is a graduate of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.