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Lieberman Pooh-poohs Poll Saying Voters Worrying About Split Loyalties

January 17, 2003
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Nearly one-third of Americans are concerned that a Jewish president may have split loyalties vis-a-vis Israel, according to a new poll.

“What it suggests is, the question about whether or not Jews are totally accepted as complete loyal Americans is still up for grabs in some American minds,” said Gary Tobin, president of the Institute for Jewish & Community

Research, which commissioned the poll.

Asked about the findings, Lieberman said Wednesday that polls he has seen say voters would not be dissuaded from backing him because of the dual loyalty issue.

“I’ve seen other polls that say the just the opposite,” Lieberman told a gathering of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations. “I don’t believe it’s true.”

Tobin added that even if respondents are concerned about possible dual loyalty, it doesn’t mean they wouldn’t vote for a Jewish candidate.

The poll of 1,013 adults from across the United States was conducted for the institute by a Pennsylvania-based firm. The results, which were released this week, have a margin of error of 3 percent.

Polls taken by the Anti-Defamation League also have shown that about one-third of Americans believe American Jews have conflicting loyalties.

Tobin’s poll also showed that 37 percent of Americans believe Jews are responsible for killing Jesus — and that Democrats are more likely to have anti-Semitic attitudes than Republicans.

Tobin attributed some of the anti-Semitism to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

“Traditional anti-Semitic stereotypes have been incorporated into the language of anti-Israelis,” Tobin said.

Tobin’s solution is more education and outreach. The poll results suggest that Jewish groups should work with leaders of other religions to improve education about Judaism and Israel, he said.

Other findings in the survey may be more debatable.

The poll asked respondents to answer such questions as whether Jews have too much influence on Wall Street, whether Jews threaten the morality of the United States and whether Jews control the media.

On many questions, the survey found that Americans aged 18-34 are more likely to hold anti-Semitic attitudes than are older groups, reversing a trend since World War II, Tobin said.

For example, roughly 24 percent of respondents under 35 believe Jews control the U.S. news media.

“In the wake of the Holocaust, social norms in the United States and elsewhere in the world were more prohibitive of most overt expressions of anti-Semitism,” Tobin said. “The constraints against anti-Semitism are weakening, and the rise in anti-Semitic beliefs is part of that trend.”

Tobin attributes the change, in part, to a surge of anti-Israel sentiment on campus.

“On college campuses, you can see signs that say ‘Stop Israel.’ You can also see signs that say ‘Stop the Jews,’ ” he said.

However, an ADL poll taken last spring contradicts the high level of anti-Semitism on campus.

In the ADL’s poll of various U.S. demographic groups, college students were rated least likely to be anti-Semites. Only 3 percent of undergraduates are “hard-core” anti-Semites, according to the ADL poll, meaning they answered yes to a majority of questions measuring anti-Semitic beliefs.

Despite the headlines, “there is a negligible amount of anti-Semitism on college campuses,” said the ADL’s national director, Abraham Foxman.

The new poll also found that Jews have achieved a middling level of acceptance in American society.

While 49 percent of respondents said Jews were “like themselves” in terms of basic beliefs and values — making them more accepted than Muslims, Mormons and atheists — they were seen as less mainstream than blacks, Catholics or Hispanics.

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