ADL’s Global 100 Survey: What Does it Actually Say about Muslim Attitudes toward Jews?

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September 09, 2020

By David Andrew Weinberg

ADL’s Global 100 survey is one our greatest tools for measuring, assessing and fighting antisemitism.  First launched in 2014, this unique study documented levels of public acceptance of antisemitic beliefs in 100 countries around the world, and we have since updated it with follow-up surveys in many of these countries in 2015, 2017, and, most recently, in 2019.

One outcome from the survey that has received particular attention was the high rate of antisemitic beliefs that ADL documented in Muslim-majority countries of the Middle East and North Africa in 2014, as well as among Muslim respondents in some Western European countries in 2015 and 2019.  The high levels of antisemitic beliefs that ADL recorded among these communities were indeed disconcerting, but it is also crucial for observers to better understand what ADL’s findings in this regard did and did not actually demonstrate.

For instance, ADL’s Global 100 findings demonstrated that a respondent’s geographic region of residence seemed to have a greater impact than does their religion for determining whether or not they hold negative beliefs about Jewish people.  Our results also suggested that these attitudes may be mutable over time – for example, as a consequence of social integration, exposure to varied educational and cultural experiences, and constructive policies adopted by governments.  Our data certainly did not support the notion, put forth by some, that Muslim individuals are inherently antisemitic or should be prohibited from immigrating to America or anywhere else based on purported expected beliefs about Jews. 

As such, ADL’s Global 100 should not be exploited by those who argue for discriminatory measures against Muslim or Middle Eastern immigrants, as did the 2017 U.S. travel ban that targeted individuals from Muslim-majority countries.  Such an interpretation is not only objectionable, it would also be an erroneous understanding of ADL’s actual survey results – not to mention at odds with ADL’s policy as conveyed through our public statements, legislative endorsements, and litigation positions, all of which opposed the U.S. Government’s 2017 Muslim Ban. 

Attitudes in Muslim-Majority Countries

The primary benchmark that ADL’s Global 100 survey uses to measure antisemitic attitudes is what we call a country’s “index score,” meaning the proportion of respondents from that country who agreed with a majority of eleven antisemitic statements.  These are not the only questions asked in our survey; for example, the index scores ADL collects tend to track with separate additional questions we frequently ask, including whether or not respondents feel they have an unfavorable opinion of Jews, or whether they agree that “a lot of the people I know have negative feelings about Jews.” 

We were not surprised in 2014 to see high index scores in many countries across the Middle East and North Africa (MENA).  That was particularly true for the Arab countries in this region, ranging from 74% for Saudi Arabia to 92% for Iraq, edging up even higher for the West Bank and Gaza at 93%.  Indeed, this is why ADL maintains a robust program for getting at the root of this problem, through monitoring and pushing back against antisemitic incitement in the Middle East, such as in state textbooks.

However, the Muslim-majority countries we surveyed in other parts of the world that year had significantly lower index scores.  While the average index score for Muslim-majority countries in the MENA region was 74%, other key Muslim-majority countries that we polled included Malaysia (61%), Senegal (53%), Indonesia (48%), Bangladesh (32%), Bosnia-Herzegovina (32%), Kazakhstan (32%), and Nigeria (16%).

Some of these Muslim-majority countries also had strikingly lower index scores of antisemitic beliefs than certain non-Muslim countries.  Armenia (58%) scored higher than its Muslim-majority neighbors Azerbaijan (37%) and even Iran (56%), where a segment of the public remains remarkably resistant to the horrific antisemitic propaganda that Iran’s government broadcasts on a daily basis.  Greece (69%) scored the same as its neighbor Turkey in 2014.

In fact, the 2014 index score of Christian-majority Greece was more than twice as high as index scores that year for the Muslim-majority countries of Bangladesh, Kazakhstan, or Bosnia-Herzegovina and more than four times as high as the index score for Muslim-majority Nigeria.

In early 2020, Nigeria was added to the U.S. Government’s travel ban, even though in 2014 the Muslim respondents to our poll in Nigeria had a remarkably low index score of only 8%.  Not only is that lower than ADL’s index scores for Nigerian Christians (22%), it’s even lower than the national index score for acceptance of antisemitic beliefs in the United States (which has ranged between 11 and 15% in recent years).  By comparison, respondents to our 2014 poll in Greece were more than eight times as likely as Muslim Nigerians to agree with most antisemitic stereotypes.

The U.S. Government also added Tanzania in 2020 to its travel ban, where about a third of the population is Muslim.  This is despite the fact that ADL’s antisemitism index scores for Tanzania were also quite low, coming in at 11% for Muslim respondents and 13% for Christians.

Additionally, we can even observe the importance of geographic region over the impact of religion with regard to acceptance of antisemitic beliefs if we look at regionwide trends in several parts of the world.

In 2014, the regionwide index scores for Muslim respondents in Sub-Saharan Africa were lower than the regionwide index scores for Christian respondents not just in Sub-Saharan Africa, but also in the MENA region, Asia, and Eastern or Western Europe.  In fact, in Eastern Europe the regionwide index scores were actually 40% lower for Muslim respondents than they were for Christians.

Attitudes in Western Europe

ADL’s data from Western Europe also provides some crucial evidence for the impact of region over religion, as well as for the principle that attitudes can be mutable over time.

On the one hand, it is important to recognize that ADL documented very high levels of antisemitic beliefs in 2015 and 2019 among Muslim respondents in six Western European countries: Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, and the United Kingdom.  The average index scores from Muslim respondents in these six countries (55% in 2015 and 49% in 2019) were much higher than the average overall national index scores there (21% in 2015 and 19% in 2019).  These figures were lower than the average score for Muslim respondents in the MENA region of 75% but still very high.

However, this contrasted with our earlier findings from 2014, and the main reason for that difference turns out to be a meaningful one.

In 2014, ADL explicitly only examined the attitudes of respondents who held citizenship in the country where they were polled.  In 2015 and 2019, we explicitly expanded our surveys in those six Western European countries so as to also include Muslim respondents who did not hold citizenship there, such as guest workers, new immigrants, and refugees.  When our study only surveyed citizens in 2014, the regionwide index score for Muslim respondents in Western Europe was 29%, only four points higher than Christians in that part of the world.

Integration may explain much of this difference.  While antisemitism in Europe remains substantial, it is also generally rejected by mainstream society.  The attitudes of European Muslims ultimately reflect the influence of European social norms, especially among those European Muslims who are citizens of those countries, since they are more likely to have had the opportunity to participate in a pluralistic democracy, to get to know Jewish people, and to learn more about the history of antisemitism, including about the Holocaust.

ADL believes in combating antisemitism in any country or community where it occurs.  ADL also is a believer in such educational programs for combating intolerance of all kinds, as well as in humane immigration policies. 

Our goal for the Global 100 is to document antisemitic attitudes around the world and to use this data to encourage governments to enact strategies that counter pervasive hateful stereotypes in their societies.  We hope that ADL’s Global 100 results will always be utilized as a powerful tool for informing education and policy making, helping render societies free of stereotyping or the targeting of any vulnerable communities or individuals.

David Andrew Weinberg is ADL’s Washington Director for International Affairs.