NEW YORK (Nov. 16)
Nearly a fifth of all Americans — almost 40 million adults — hold attitudes the Anti-Defamation League describes as strongly anti- Semitic, according to a new survey conducted on its behalf.
The national poll on American attitudes towards Jews, ADL’s first major study of this kind since 1964, revealed a hard-core group that embraces a wide range of stereotypes about Jews. That group represented 29 percent of Americans when the last survey was conducted.
“It boggles the mind that in 1992 a significant segment of American society has bought into the classical canards and stereotypes that allege Jewish power,” said Abraham Foxman, ADL national director.
Respondents’ degree of anti-Semitism was measured against what ADL calls the “index of anti-Semitic belief,” a series of 11 statements with which the person being surveyed was asked to agree or disagree.
The 11 statements included: “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.”
The fifth of respondents considered “hard-core haters” by ADL agreed with six or more of the statements.
The moderately anti-Semitic (39 percent) agreed with as few as two or as many as five of the statements, and those who agreed with none or one — a 41 percent plurality of respondents — are considered not anti-Semitic by ADL.
Twice as many African-Americans fell into the hard-core category (34 percent) as white Americans (17 percent), although, as in the general population, the overall level of anti-Semitism among blacks has declined over the last three decades.
“We are deeply troubled by the extent of anti-Semitic attitudes held by African-Americans which the survey revealed,” said Foxman. “The black-Jewish relationship is a longstanding and special one, and we feel pained by the results.”
The study also found that anti-Semitic beliefs are more likely to be found among the following groups: those over age 65, those who received a high-school education or less, and blue-collar or semiskilled workers.
Anti-Semitic beliefs were least prevalent among those under age 40 and those who are college-educated.
The survey’s findings, based on a national poll of 1,101 American adults conducted in May by the Boston firm of Marttila & Kiley, do not necessarily paint a picture of doom and gloom, however, especially when viewed in the context of interethnic tensions generally.
As one expert, Jerome Chanes of the National Jewish Community Relations Advisory Council, said at the Council of Jewish Federations General Assembly last week, “20 percent of any group probably has negative attitudes about any other group.”
And according to the ADL survey, over the last three decades stereotypes about Jewish shadiness and dishonesty have become increasingly unacceptable to most Americans.
Since 1964, the percentage of Americans accepting a range of negative stereotypes about Jewish business practices has fallen off sharply, while the percentage rejecting these views has increased dramatically.
During the same period, however, stereotypes about Jewish power in the United States and American Jewish loyalty to Israel have become more prominent.
Eleven percent of respondents in 1964 agreed that Jews have too much power in the United States, and 31 percent agree today.
There has also been a slight rise — from 30 percent to 35 percent — in the percentage of Americans who believe that Jews are more loyal to Israel than to the United States.
Among the most anti-Semitic segment of the population, it is one of the most accepted stereotypes.
But when viewed in a larger context, these figures are offset at least somewhat by countervailing trends.
For instance, while 31 percent of respondents believe that Jews have too much power, nearly half say that whites in general have too much power. And 20 percent say blacks have too much power.
And while the percentage of Americans who think that Jews are more loyal to Israel than to the United States has increased slightly over the last decade, the percentage of Americans rejecting this statement has jumped much more dramatically over the same period.
There has also been a drop-off since 1964 in the level of acceptance of a number of other critical statements about Jews and a sharp increase in the rejection of those views.
For example, in 1992, those accepting the statement that Jews pretty much run the movie and television industries dropped by 19 percent, while those rejecting this view rose by 33 percent.
Eighteen percent fewer respondents accept the statement that Jews have a lot of irritating faults, and 27 percent more reject it than in 1964.
And 51 percent of respondents, the most who agreed with any of the negative statements, said that it is true that Jews stick together more than other Americans — a quality that could be regarded as ambiguous, if not positive, by non-Jews and Jews alike.
A survey of polls conducted from 1958 through 1990 on Americans’ attitudes toward Jews, which was commissioned by the American Jewish Committee and published in January 1992, agrees with the ADL findings that stereotypes about Jews continue to be widely held.
But it also found that Jews have gained wide acceptance in American society, and have improved their social standing over the last three decades, although not as much as objective criteria like income and education levels should warrant.