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Since 2008 – Progress Through Politics

The Demographics of America’s Governors: Religion

This post will look at the demographics of America’s governors by age, as of August 2012. All in all, this series on the demographics of America’s governors examines:

  • Age
  • Place of Birth
  • Race and Gender
  • Race and Gender and Political Party
  • Religion

    Outside of place of birth, this was the hardest category to get information on. Unlike race and gender, which are pretty obvious, your face doesn’t indicate which religion you are.

    More below.

    There are a lot of varying Protestant denominations in the United States, but there’s not much meaningful difference between them. There’s a much greater difference between Catholics, Protestants, and Mormons. I put all governors belonging to a Protestant denomination as merely Protestant, which simplifies things by a lot.

    Sometimes governors, especially Republicans, talk about how much religion has guided them in the lives while never actually revealing their denomination. It takes a bit of searching to confirm that they’re actually Protestant. John Kasich and Rick Scott are good examples of this.

    Other times it’s extremely unclear what religious affiliation a governor actually holds. Wikipedia indicates John Kitzhaber of Oregon as being “Other Christian,” but other sources indicate him as Jewish. I put him as Jewish (feel free to inform me if I’m wrong). Information is also very scarce on Peter Shumlin of Vermont, who apparently is Agnostic or Atheist.

    In any case, my research led to the following map. The map below indicates the religion of each governor of the United States as of August 2012:


    America, unsurprisingly, is a country dominated by Protestants and Catholics. Combined the two account for the governors of 46 out of 50 states. 28 states are governed by Protestants, while 18 states are governed by Catholics.

    There’s a fairly clear geographical pattern going on as well. The Northeast and West are dominated by Catholic governors, whereas the American heartland is generally governed by Protestants. There’s more than a passing resemblance to the electoral college. Barack Obama will win most of the states governed by Catholic governors, while Mitt Romney will win most of the states governed by Protestant governors.

    Catholics actually punch above their weight here. While they’re only one-fourth of the overall population, Catholics govern 36% of the states. Those states compose 43% of the nation’s population.

    Let’s take a look at Democratic governors:


    Democrats are lighter on Protestant governors; nine out of the twenty Democratic governors are Protestant (45%), as compared to twenty-eight out of the fifty governors as a whole (56%). Catholic compose eight out of the twenty Democratic governors. But the big states are governed by Catholics. This means that Catholics govern 65% of the population in the twenty states with Democratic governors.

    Both Jewish governors are Democratic. So is Peter Shumlin of Vermont, the probable Agnostic or Atheist.

    Let’s take a look at the Republicans:


    There’s not much difference between the nation as a whole and the states governed by Republican governors. There are a few more Protestants and a few less Catholics. The sole Mormon governor is also a Republican.

    There is one difference of note. While ten out of the 29 Republican states are governed by Catholics, these generally have smaller populations. Catholics govern 27% of the population living under Republican governors. This is substantially less than the 43% of the American population as a whole governed by Catholics. Nevertheless, it’s still greater than the 25% of Americans who profess themselves to be Catholic.

    There used to be a time when Catholics and Jews found it harder than Protestants to get ahead. It seems that those days of discrimination are mostly over. On the other hand, Agnostics and Atheists will still find the path to becoming governor quite difficult. So will those who profess a faith that is neither Catholic nor Jewish.