Amid the worst outbreak of anti-Semitic violence in decades, a new survey released today from ADL (the Anti-Defamation League) found more than half of American adults (61 percent) polled agree with at least one or more classic anti-Semitic canards. Nonetheless, there was positive news as the findings showed that the level of Americans who hold pernicious and pervasive anti-Semitic attitudes has remained at decades-long historical lows: The majority of ADL’s surveys over the last 25 years have indicated that between 11 and 14 percent of Americans intensely harbor anti-Semitic attitudes.
The ADL Survey of American Attitudes Toward Jews found that, over time, anti-Semitic attitudes have remained constant in America, with 11 percent of American adults – about 28 million people – harboring deeply ingrained anti-Semitic attitudes by agreeing with six or more common tropes about Jews covered in the survey. Longstanding stereotypes about “Jewish power” in business and the “dual loyalty” canard – the notion that Jews are more loyal to Israel than to their home country – remain deeply entrenched and are especially widespread.
“In recent times, we’ve been horrified by an uptick in anti-Semitic violence. Our research finds that this uptick is being caused not by a change in attitudes among most Americans,” said Jonathan A. Greenblatt, ADL CEO. “Rather, more of the millions of Americans holding anti-Semitic views are feeling emboldened to act on their hate.”
Released just after International Holocaust Remembrance Day, the ADL survey found that nearly one-in-five Americans (19 percent) believe “Jews still talk too much about what happened to them in the Holocaust,” a disturbing finding at a time when research has shown that Americans are becoming less aware of the events of the Holocaust as time passes. This year marks the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau.
“We know that when anti-Semitic attitudes are expressed in public discourse without condemnation, especially from our leaders, it gives a green light to those on the fringe to keep spouting it – and acting on it,” Greenblatt said. “That’s why every person has a responsibility to call out hate and anti-Semitism whenever it arises.”
The poll’s additional key findings include:
Jewish “disloyalty” is a widespread anti-Semitic stereotype, with 24 percent of Americans agreeing with the statement “Jews are more loyal to Israel than to America.”
Stereotypes about Jewish control of business and the financial markets are among the most pernicious and enduring anti-Semitic beliefs, with 15 percent finding Jews have too much power in the business world and 10 percent agreeing with the statement “Jews are more willing than others to use shady practices to get what they want.” Nearly one-third of respondents (31 percent) say that Jewish employers go out of their way to hire other Jews, and 17 percent say that “the movie and television industries are pretty much run by Jews.”
Historical myths about Jews are also still prevalent. Twenty-seven (27) percent responded that they believe that Jews killed Christ.
Anti-Semitism also takes the form of exaggerated claims about the Israeli government. Fourteen percent say the Jewish state sometimes “behaves as badly as the Nazis,” and 16 percent agreed with the statement that Israel’s “record on human rights is worse than most other countries.”
Smaller shares saw American Jews as responsible for Israel’s actions (7 percent) and expressed support for a U.S. boycott of Israeli products and companies (8 percent).
Conversely, most respondents did have positive associations about Jews. In particular, 79 percent of Americans believe that “Jews place a strong emphasis on the importance of family life” and 66 percent believe that “Jews have contributed much to the cultural life of America.”
Since 1964, ADL has regularly conducted a nationally representative survey about attitudes toward Jews. This poll consisted of 800 interviews occurring between October 12 and 16, 2019. Interviews were conducted via landline telephones, cellphones, and online. The margin of error is +/- 3.5 at the 95 percent confidence interval.
Negative attitudes toward Jews are one part of ADL’s overall assessment of levels of anti-Semitism in a country. ADL also considers the number and nature of anti-Semitic incidents annually, polls of Jewish communities about their experiences of anti-Semitism in their communities, government policies, and other factors.
ADL gratefully acknowledges Volkswagen Group and The ADL Lewy Family Institute for Combating Anti-Semitism for their support of the ADL Survey of American Attitudes Toward Jews and ongoing commitment to fighting anti-Semitism. ADL also thanks its individual, corporate and foundation advocates and contributors, whose vote-of-confidence in our work provides the resources for our research, analysis and programs fighting anti-Semitism and hate in the United States and around the globe.