Menu JTA Search

U.S. College Students Show Less Anti-jewish Prejudice Than Adults, Survey Establishes

American college students show less anti-Jewish prejudice than the country’s population as a whole, it was disclosed in a report made public today by Supreme Court Justice Meier Steinbrink, national chairman of the Anti-Defamation League of B’riai B’rith.

Based on a study of social distance attitudes among both college seniors and freshmen conducted for the League by the Elmo Roper organization, the report reveals that college students are overwhelmingly opposed to quota systems and other discriminatory admissions policies which exist in many American colleges. The study was made in connection with the A.D.L.’s forthcoming annual survey of anti-Semitism.

Only one out of 10 seniors expresses a preference for colleges which discriminate. By contrast, almost one-third of the general adult population–including college graduates and non-graduates–are so inclined. "On the basis of this finding we know now what we have always suspected," Justice Steinbrink said. "College quota systems have been defended by some as protection for non-Jewish students. It is now evident that these students themselves reject the bigotry of their protectors.

To determine how much prejudice college students feel toward Jews, researchers asked a series of key questions which probed such areas as education, social contacts, housing, employment and intermarriage. A standard of comparison with the general population was provided by a previous Anti-Defamation League study made by Roper in September, 1948.

One surprising conclusion is that the low index of prejudice among college students is not at all, according to the study, the result of attending college for a four-year period. Tests made on 50 American campuses in the first few weeks of the 1949 fall term show that the incidence of prejudice is the same for seniors who already have had the benefits of almost four years of college, as for freshmen who have yet to become acclimated to or influenced by college life. Here is how the attitudes of college seniors compare with those of American adults on specific questions:

1. Do you think Jews are getting too much economic power in the United States? Thirty-eight percent of the general adult population said "yes"; among seniors, 23 percent. The answer to the same question with regard to "too much political power" was: Adults, 19 percent; seniors, 6 percent.

2. Would you prefer not to work side by side with jews? Only 5 percent of the seniors replied "yes"; adults, 14 percent.

3. Would you prefer not to have Jews move into your neighborhood? Adults, 22 percent; seniors, 10 percent.

4. Would you prefer not to have Jews as guests in your home? Adults, 15 percent; seniors 3 percent.

The highest degree of non-acceptance is shown in answers to the question; "Would you prefer not to have one of your near relatives marry a Jew;" One out of four seniors opposed intermarriage. But here, again, the college group was less restrictive than the general adult population, where the ratio on this provocative question is 48 percent.

A breakdown of college sub-groups shows that there is greater bias among fraternity and sorority members than among non-members. Students on Southern campuses were more anti-Semitic, students at Far Western colleges less prejudiced, although Jewish enrollment in both areas is small. Researchers could find no appreciable differences in attitudes toward Jews between men and co-eds or between Catholics and Protestant students.

The interviewers also presented two hypothetical situations involving anti-Semitic discrimination on the campus. The first described two equally well qualified candidates, a Jew and a Gentile, for election to the board of the college newspaper. Non-Jewish seniors were asked if they had "any preference." Fifty-seven percent said "no." Seventeen percent definitely "preferred" the Gentile; another 19 percent adopted the same attitude if election of the Jew "meant that Jewish students would become a majority of the board." One percent preferred the Jewish candidate.

The second situation: "Suppose six of the eleven best football players in college happened to be Jews. Do you think it would be a good idea to have them all play on the varsity?" The answers: Yes–49 percent; doesn’t matter (a volunteered answer)–41 percent; no–7 percent.

NEXT STORY