Is America Avoiding a More Diverse Congress

By Chris Hoenig

Congress is more diverse than it’s ever been … but America is unsure whether it should be even more diverse.

A new ABC News/Fusion poll finds that just 23 percent of Americans believe having more Congressmen and -women from underrepresented groups would be good for the country, with the vast majority of the nation—73 percent—saying it makes no difference to them whatsoever. When it comes specifically to women, 43 percent say it would be a good thing to have more women elected.

The poll results paint a clear picture of the deep political division in the United States and just how much race and gender play a role in it. “The gaps in nearly all cases are largest among partisan and ideological groups—so enormous and so fundamental that they seem to constitute visions of two distinctly different Americas,” ABC News Polling Director Gary Langer wrote.

Half of all liberal Democrats say increasing the number of nonwhite elected officials in Congress is a good thing, but only 5 percent of conservative Republicans agree. Only 23 percent of Republicans believe the country could use more women in Congress (two-thirds just don’t seem to care), while 60 percent of Democrats think it would be an improvement.

The belief that women and underrepresented racial and ethnic groups get a fair shake is also divided sharply along political and ideological lines. When it comes to women having fewer opportunities at work than men, more than half of all Americans (53 percent) agree that it’s an issue—but that ranges from 76 percent of liberal Democrats (and 68 percent of all Dems) to 35 percent of conservative Republicans (and 38 percent of all respondents who identify as members of the GOP).

Sixty-two percent of liberal Democrats believe nonwhites have fewer opportunities in society than their white counterparts, as do 56 percent of all Democrats. Only a quarter of Republicans feel the same way.

Equal Representation

It is true that the 113th Congress is the most diverse in history—in fact, white men make up less than half of all House Democrats. But Congress is supposed to represent the people, and the makeup of Congress is nowhere close to the makeup of the United States.

Thirteen percent of all Americans are Black, but there are only 43 Blacks in Congress—just 8 percent of all the seats in Congress. Latinos make up nearly 17 percent of the U.S. population but only 6 percent of Congress (32 members in the House and Senate). And despite making up the majority of the population (54 percent), less than 1 in 5 members of Congress are female.

Only Asians have equal representation on Capitol Hill: They hold just over 5 percent of the seats in Congress and make up just over 5 percent of the country’s population.

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