Findings of the Anti-Defamation League’s 2009 Survey of American Attitudes Toward Jews suggest that antisemitic propensities are lessening in the US.
Contract researchers conducted telephone interviews with 1,747 American adults, asking them whether a series of positive and negative statements about Jews were ‘probably true’ or ‘probably false’. Within this series 11 antisemitic statements (i.e. statements which are both negative about Jews and correspond to enduring stereotypes which have been historically used against Jews) occurred at random:
- Jews stick together more than other Americans.
- Jews always like to be at the head of things.
- Jews are more loyal to Israel than America.
- Jews have too much power in the U.S. today.
- Jews have too much control and influence on Wall Street.
- Jews have too much power in the business world.
- Jews have a lot of irritating faults.
- Jews are more willing than others to use shady practices to get what they want.
- Jewish business people are so shrewd that others don’t have a fair chance at competition.
- Jews don’t care what happens to anyone but their own kind.
- Jews are (not) just as honest as other businesspeople.
Respondents who agreed with more than 6 of these were considered to be the most antisemitic, those who agreed with 2-5 were considered neither prejudiced nor unprejudiced, and 0-1, essentially unprejudiced. This year’s research found that 12% of respondents (corresponding to 30 million Americans) fell into the most antisemitic category. This continues a general trend of decline over the previous five decades.
Antisemitic propensities were found to be strongly associated with low educational achievement and an attitude of general intolerance. More men than women express antisemitic views, and these are less prevalent in the 40-64 age group than in younger or older age groups.
Antisemitism in the US is primarily concerned with Jewish power and Jewish loyalty. Most of the respondents who agreed with more than 6 of the statements agreed with those relating to Jewish power, control and influence. 30% of all respondents and 84% of the most antisemitic respondents believed that Jews are more loyal to Israel than to the US. 18% of all respondents thought it was probably true that Jews had too much control in the business world; 13% thought it was probably true that Jews had too much power in the world today, and 12% thought it was probably true that Jews were more dishonest than other people.
Jews were thought to value god and family life, which the ADL held up as evidence of “high regard”. 71% of respondents believed it was “probably true” that Jews had contributed much to the cultural life of America (18% thought it “probably false”). Concern about the influence of pro-Israel lobbying groups is on the decline in the US from 37% in 1991 to 16% this year. However, among the general population 29% held Jews responsible for the death of Jesus (2 millenia ago) while 25% felt that Jews were probably talking too much about what happened to them during the Holocaust (65 years ago – can’t have been the same respondents, surely).
I didn’t understand page 27.
Surveys tend to tell us what what rather than why, and as such they raise many more interesting questions than they answer. I’d like to know how these findings compare to the general population’s views about other minority groups, and about the circumstances under which people change their minds (either way) about Jews. And how do the “many years of constant and intense efforts by ADL and others to make America a more accepting society” fit into the findings; what can we learn about changing racist views? Is it better to focus on critical thinking (i.e. a generic approach), or tackle the stereotypes head on? The main question is, what actions or circumstances have brought about this lessening and how can we strengthen them?
Interesting too to compare with the ADL’s survey of 12 European countries in 2005, where antisemitic propensities were on the whole more prevalent.