This article argues that descriptive representation, or demographic similarities between legislators and the public, can provide effective substantive representation of citizens’ concerns. We examine representation through the lens of opinion congruence or alignment in the policy preferences of legislators and citizens sharing various identities. Congruence may result from shared material interests or from self-selection into an identity group on the basis of policy views, but it can also be a product of networks and organizations that socialize masses and elites into a common worldview. Though political parties were historically the most important agents of political socialization, we argue that religious organizations constitute a more powerful socializing force in many new democracies. Examining the case of Brazil, we draw on three legislative surveys and fifteen mass surveys to analyze congruence across seven issue areas. Legislators and voters from underrepresented groups—women, Afro-Brazilians, evangelical Christians, and those of lower social class—are generally closer in their opinions than those sharing a party or electoral district. Evangelicals are often the most congruent.
Analyzing original surveys of congregations and clergy, we argue that this finding results from the socializing role of churches.