Polling conducted by YouGov in the days following this year’s election finds that large shares of Americans believe it’s important for their elected officials to be demographically representative of the American population; among the most likely form of diversity to be prioritized is representation in regard to education and age. There is a disconnect between what Americans find important in representation and how they perceive the current situation: Fewer than half of people say that America’s elected officials are currently even somewhat representative of the country overall in each of the eight ways asked about: age, disability, education, gender, race or ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, and wealth or income. Americans are correct about a lack of representation along these dimensions, at least with regard to members of Congress.
Which party’s elected representatives are more demographically representative of the country as a whole? Despite data showing that Democratic members of Congress are far more representative than Republicans of the American population overall in terms of their gender, race or ethnicity, religion, and sexual orientation, fewer than two in five people think this is the case for each of these types of diversity, while most Americans believe the parties are equally representative or are not sure which is more representative. When it comes to Congress, there is also a skewed perception of the extent of religious diversity among each party’s elected officials: Even though only two congressional Republicans are non-Christian — far fewer than the share of U.S. adults who are non-Christian — Americans are more likely to believe religious representation is greater among Republicans than to think it is greater among Democrats.