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Report Shows Significant Decline of Anti-semitism in the U.S. in the Last Two Decades

Anti-Semitism in America has declined significantly in the last two decades. Today only 34 percent of the non-Jews in the United States are anti-Semites compared to 45 percent in 1964. At the same time there has been a decline in support among Americans for the State of Israel since 1977. While in 1977 66 percent of the American public felt that the continuation of Israel is important to the U.S., only 51 percent feel the same today.

These are the major findings of a survey on anti-Semitism in the United States just completed by the opinion research company of Yankelovich, Skelly and White. The survey was commissioned by the American Jewish Committee and its findings were disclosed at a news conference today at the AJC headquarters here.

Daniel Yankelovich, chairman of the research company, said that the baseline for comparison with current findings was a similar survey conducted in 1964 by a research team from the University of California at Berkeley, and published in 1969 under the title,

“The Tenacity of Prejudice.” The conclusion that anti-Semitism was declining, he said, was based on an II-item index that was used in both 1964 and 1981. The national survey released today was based on 1,215 personal interviews which included 174 Jews and 127 Blacks.

POSITIVE IMAGES OF JEWS

The survey shows that the decline in anti-Semitic beliefs was most pronounced in terms of traditional negative stereotypes about the Jewish character. For example, since 1964 there has been a decline in the proportion of non-Jews who feel that Jews “have a lot of irritating faults” (48 percent in 1964, down to 29 percent in 1981), or that Jews “are not as honest,” (from 34 down to 22 percent.)

Ruth Clark, senior vice president of the research firm, analyzing the survey’s findings, said that “generally speaking, positive images of Jews are more pervasive than negative ones. A substantial majority of non-Jews express the belief that Jews are honest, hardworking, warm and friendly, have a strong faith in God, and have contributed much to the cultural life of the country.”

ANALYSIS OF THE FINDINGS

An analysis of the findings, Mrs. Clark said, reveals that:

“45 percent of non-Jews can be characterized as unprejudiced — relatively free of anti-Semitic beliefs;

“32 percent of non-Jews are neutrals — without strong positive or negative beliefs about Jews;

“23 percent of non-Jews can be characterized as prejudiced with strong negative beliefs about Jews.”

“If we exclude the neutrals and examine the views of individuals who are definitely prejudiced or unprejudiced,” Mrs. Clark said, “we find that 34 percent of non-Jews qualify as anti-Semitic today compared to 45 percent in 1964.”

The survey showed that anti-Semitism is also more widespread among Blacks than among whites. But, the survey disclosed, Black acceptance of Jews is quite similar to the level of Black acceptance of Italian Americans and Japanese Americans. The result of the study also indicates that the perceived business power of Jews is responsible for the way Blacks feel about Jews.

In contrast to the overall decline in anti-Semitism, the level of anti-Semitism among Blacks has remained unchanged since 1964, the survey disclosed.

BASIS FOR DECLINE IN ANTI-SEMITISM

According to Yankelovich, the decline in anti-Semitism in the United States “is not primarily the result of changes in the view of individuals, but the result of generational change.” In 1964, he explained, older adults tended to be highly anti-emitic. Their passing on and their replacement by today’s young adults has resulted in lower levels of anti-Semitism, since young people today tend to be relatively unprejudiced. It is the changing of generations then and not the changing of attitudes which is primarily responsible for a decline in anti-Semitism.”

The findings show that only 16 percent of 18-29-year olds are prejudiced, compared to 31 percent of those 55 and over. Mrs. Clark said that anti-Semitism is more widespread among the older and less educated than the young and the more educated.

The survey said that while there is a decline in anti-Semitism since 1964 “Jews are increasingly likely to be viewed as more loyal to Israel than the United States and as having too much power.” In 1964 only 13 percent of the non-Jews believed Jews have too much power in the U.S.; today that figure is up to 23 percent. In addition, in 1964, 39 percent of non-Jews believed Jews are more loyal to Israel than to America; today the figure is 48 percent.

The decline in the support of Americans for Israel was not replaced in increased support for the Arabs. “It has manifested itself in the form of increased uncertainty about what American policy in the Mideast should be,” Mrs. Clark said. The survey showed 31 percent of non-Jews believe Israel is wrong in refusing to deal with the Palestine Liberation Organization, while 25 percent support Israel on this issue.

CONTINUE TO FIGHT ANTI-SEMITISM

Bertram Gold, the AJCommittee’s executive vice president, responding to the survey’s findings, said: “It is important to note that this study was limited to the United States, and that it did not measure new developments in international anti-Semitism. Its findings that there has been a significant decline in anti-Semitic prejudice provides corroborative evidence to our own perception that there has been a substantial decrease in discrimination against Jews in the United States over the years.

“It should also be noted that while we feel gratified that the overall anti-Semitism figure has dropped from 45 percent to 34 percent, that is 34 percent more anti-Semitism than we care to live with, and we shall continue our efforts to eradicate it wherever it exists.”

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