At a terribly disturbing time for American Jews, marked by the greatest anti-Semitic violence and incidents experienced by the community in decades, ADL (the Anti-Defamation League), has completed its latest survey of American attitudes toward Jews.
The topline results reveal some positive news, while also demonstrating the pervasive persistence of anti-Semitic tropes in our society. On the bright side, a relatively low share of Americans harbors significant anti-Semitic attitudes, a finding in line with ADL’s previous surveys over the past 20 years. However, that share still represents tens of millions of people harboring virulent views. Also, of deep concern is the widespread belief among Americans in one or more anti-Semitic stereotypes.
Conspiratorial beliefs and tropes related to Jews have fueled violence against Jews for nearly two thousand years and continue to be implicated in the more recent attacks on the Jewish community. The man accused of wounding four people with a machete at a Hanukkah party in Monsey, NY had searched the internet for “prominent companies founded by Jews.” Among the reasons that the Poway synagogue shooter cited for attacking Jews was allegedly their “using usury and banks to enslave nations in debt and control all finances for the purpose of funding evil.”
Since 1964, ADL has taken the pulse of anti-Semitic attitudes in America. Our latest Survey of American Attitudes Toward Jews finds that a majority of Americans agree with at least one common stereotype about Jews; and approximately one-in-four Americans believe in the historical myth that Jews killed Christ. Nefarious myths about Jewish control of government have more recently been used by white nationalists to espouse a new belief that Jews are weakening American culture by supporting immigration – a belief that is also held by one-in-ten Americans.
In the original 1964 poll, ADL found that 29 percent of Americans believed in six or more common stereotypes about Jews, out of a total of 11 such stereotypes that they were asked about. That percentage has declined significantly over the ensuing 55 years, and, indeed, has stayed relatively flat at the lower end over the past two decades. The new survey finds that 11 percent of American adults believed in six or more of the 11 stereotypes tested. While the decline over the past 55 years should be celebrated, the current share still translates to more than 28 million Americans. In recent years there has been a surge of anti-Semitic incidents, including violent crimes, even as overall anti-Semitic attitudes remain low. It is a stark reminder that it only takes a small number committing violence to create an epidemic. Society must redouble its efforts to fight anti-Semitism and all forms of hate in order to reverse the recent uptick in anti-Semitic incidents and violence.