Majority of Americans Concerned About anti-Jewish, anti-Muslim Violence, Poll Shows

Close to half of respondents said there was more anti-Semitism during the 2016 presidential campaign than previously, and that candidate Donald Trump should have done more to discourage it.

Debra Nussbaum Cohen
Debra Nussbaum Cohen
New York
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A Jewish man looks at vandalized tombstones at Mount Carmel Cemetery February 27, 2017 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
A Jewish man looks at vandalized tombstones at Mount Carmel Cemetery February 27, 2017 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Credit: Mark Makela/AFP
Debra Nussbaum Cohen
Debra Nussbaum Cohen
New York

NEW YORK – Anti-Semitic attitudes in America have risen slightly in the past year. But concern about violence directed against both Jews and Muslims has gone up substantially, according to two new polls commissioned by the Anti-Defamation League. The oldest and least educated Americans hold the most anti-Jewish views, and there is hope for the future; Americans under age 39 "are remarkably free of prejudiced views," the findings indicate.

For the first time, ADL found that a majority of Americans, 52 percent, is concerned about violence in the U.S. directed at Jews, and an even a higher number, 76 percent, is concerned about violence directed at Muslims.

Overall, anti-Semitic attitudes in the U.S. have been waning for 50 years, according to the ADL’s annual polling data, which it began in 1964. That year it found that 29 percent of Americans had anti-Jewish views. The percentage has fallen steadily since then, since 1998 bouncing between 12 and 17 percent. The most recent ADL Survey of Anti-Semitic Attitudes in the U.S., based on October’s survey, found that 14 percent of American adults, or about 34 million, possess anti-Semitic attitudes, compared to 12 percent in 2013, the most recent year for which data was provided.

ADL survey. Credit: ADL

Still, the percentage of Americans surveyed who believe that U.S. Jews “are more loyal to Israel than America” has remained remarkably flat, at 31 percent in the most recent polling, which is slightly higher than the 30 percent who thought so in 1964.

“It is disappointing this dual-loyalty charge has persisted despite the sweeping demographic changes that have taken place over the past 50 years,” ADL CEO Jonathan Greenblatt told Haaretz. “It has been a catalyst for scapegoating and vilifying Jews for centuries. It is an ugly stereotype and one of the key indicators of anti-Semitic attitudes,” he said. “It shows that there is still much work to be done in educating the public about the root causes of anti-Semitism.”

The ADL’s two public opinion surveys are based on 3,600 interviews conducted in January and February 2017, and interviews with 1,500 people the previous October.

Close to half – 47 percent – of the people interviewed at the start of 2017 said there was more anti-Semitism during the 2016 presidential campaign than previously, and 49 percent said that candidate Donald Trump should have done more to discourage it. Thirty-six percent of those polled said that he addressed it sufficiently, according to the ADL.

ADL survey. Credit: ADL

Most Americans believe that Trump holds a range of prejudiced views. Fifty-nine percent said in the survey interviews that Trump is anti-Muslim, 54 percent said that he is racist, and 53 percent that he is anti-Latino.

The ADL survey found that 62 percent of American adults are concerned that politics have become less stable, up notably from the 54 percent who felt that way in 2015. The October poll found that 68 percent of those interviewed felt that campaign rhetoric “decreased tolerance and respect for all races and religions.”

Many more Americans surveyed in 1964, 40 percent, thought that Jews “have irritating faults” than do today, when 14 percent responded that they do.

A higher percentage of African Americans surveyed have anti-Semitic prejudices than the overall percentage of Americans polled. That has remained true for the past decade in ADL surveys, ranging since 2007 between 22 and 29 percent of African Americans, compared to 12 to 15 percent of Americans in general at the time.

But in a positive sign, the percentage of the best-educated Americans who are essentially free of anti-Jewish views has risen in recent years. In 2013 just 58 percent of college graduates responding to the survey were basically bias-free. In 2016 it was 70 percent.

“The good news in this research is that today a large majority of Americans do not subscribe to common anti-Semitic stereotypes,” said Greenblatt. “It’s also encouraging that a record number of Americans are concerned about violence against the Jewish and Muslim communities, and are troubled at how intolerance has infected our politics.”

The pro-Israel lobby is also viewed as far less influential than other American special interest groups, including the National Rifle Association, oil and pharmaceutical industries.

The Israel lobby has in recent years been viewed as far less influential than other interest groups. In 2016, for instance, just 5 percent of survey respondents replied that the pro-Israel lobby has the most influence on American government policy, compared to 26 percent who said that the NRA gun lobby does. Twenty-five percent said the pharmaceutical industry does, and 23 the oil lobby.

For the first time the ADL Global 100, its survey of anti-Semitic attitudes worldwide, included questions about American Muslim attitudes toward Jews. One third of American Muslims – 34 percent – possess anti-Semitic beliefs, according to ADL. While a concerning number, it is markedly lower than that of Muslims in Europe (55 percent) and the Middle East (75 percent). And at the same time, an even 50 percent of American Muslims polled have positive feelings about Israel.

Eighty-nine percent of Muslim Americans are concerned about violence directed at them and Muslim institutions in the U.S., and 64 percent said that they do not believe the government is doing enough to ensure their safety, according to the ADL. And while 72 percent of U.S. Muslims said they do not believe they need to hide their faith, 66 percent said they feel less safe in America since Trump was elected.

“It’s discouraging to know that Muslims and other minorities feel unsafe,” said the ADL’s Greenblatt. “Clearly there is still a lot of work to do.”

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