NEW YORK (Jun. 22)
Anti-Semitism in the United States has decreased appreciably in the past 50 years, and circumstances are not particularly ripe for its resurgence, concludes a new report published by the American Jewish Committee.
Written by Tom Smith, director of the General Social Survey at the National Opinion Research Center, University of Chicago, “Anti-Semitism in Contemporary America” concentrates in particular on trends since the mid-1960s.
While not containing any new polling results, the report is based on a review of more than 140 scholarly studies of public attitudes toward Jews, including the results of two dozen national public opinion polls conducted since 1948.
Examining 15 possible indicators of anti-Semitism, the report concludes that three are not useful measures of change, and four show little change.
Six indicators show “direct or indirect decreases in anti-Semitism,” according to the report. These include survey questions relating to stereotypes of Jews, how respondents feel about Jews, a willingness to vote for a Jewish president, approval of intermarriage and perceptions by non-Jews of changes in prejudice.
Three indicators show rises in anti-Semitism, which the report describes as “erratic, rather than indicating clear, linear trends.
“All three represent Jewish perspectives (Jewish perceptions of changes in prejudice, concerns about current and future anti-Semitism, and reports, presumably mostly by Jews, of anti-Semitic incidents to the ADL)” writes Smith, referring to the annual audit of anti-Semitism issued by the Anti-Defamation League.
Smith says the “scholarly consensus” in explaining this apparent inconsistency “is that Jews, for understandable reasons, overestimate the extent of anti-Semitism, its direction of change, and its potential for the future.”
Acknowledging that “virulent anti-Semitism persists among fringe hate groups,” the report concludes that it lacks a “critical mass” to become significant.
Nonetheless, anti-Semitism is not extinct.
“Jews are still recognized as an ethnic and religious out-group and are evaluated as such. While stereotypes have ebbed and social distance has narrowed, anti-Semitic prejudices still survive and anti-Semitic activities are all too common,” the report concludes.