Anti-Semitism and Prejudice in America
Highlights from an ADL Survey - November 1998

How Prevalent is Anti-Semitism in America?
Declining Acceptance of Nearly All Anti-Jewish Stereotypes
Which Americans are Most Likely to Hold Anti-Semitic Views?
Anti-Semitism and Racism, Xenophobia and Intolerance
Anti-Semitism and Political and Economic Alienation
Anti-Semitism and Attitudes Toward Israel
Survey Methodology


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How Prevalent is Anti-Semitism in America?

The proportion of Americans holding views about Jews that are unquestionably anti-Semitic has dropped to 12% in 1998, from 20% in 1992.

The 1998 survey reveals that slightly more than one-in-ten (12%) Americans – or between 20 and 25 million adults -- hold a collection of views about Jews which are unquestionably anti-Semitic.

The number of Americans within this "most anti-Semitic" segment of the population has been steadily declining over the last three decades. For purposes of comparison, a 1964 ADL survey showed that about three-in-ten (29%) Americans held a significant number of anti-Semitic beliefs. That number declined to 20% in a 1992 study, and is down to 12% in the current survey.

Index of Anti-Semitic Belief

To provide an analytic tool for identifying which Americans have a propensity to be more prejudiced toward Jews, all four major surveys of anti-Semitism (1964, 1981, 1992 and 1998) have all used some form of an "index of anti-Semitic belief."

The index was developed and first used in conjunction with the 1964 ADL survey, conducted by researchers at the University of California. The index groups respondents into one of three categories based upon the number of critical responses they give to 11 specific questions about American Jews.

There has been some deviation in the way respondents were grouped in each survey, and there have been slight changes in time in the wording of the 11 questions to keep them relevant and contemporary. But the basic structure of the index has been retained over all four surveys.

In the 1998 survey, as in 1992, respondents are grouped as follows:

Not Anti-Semitic: People who answer none or one of the questions with a critical response are considered essentially free of prejudicial attitudes toward the Jewish community. (53% in 1998 vs. 39% in 1992).

Middle: People who answer between two and five questions critically are considered to be neither prejudiced nor unprejudiced -- that is, not completely prejudice-free in their attitudes toward Jews, but not an audience to be deeply worried about. (35% in 1998 vs. 41% in 1992)

Most Anti-Semitic: The people who answer six or more questions critically are considered the most anti-Semitic group of Americans, and have been isolated for special analysis and demographic identification. (12% in 1998 vs. 20% in 1992)

While at least one or two of the 11 questions that comprise the index arguably are ambiguous in their nature, they have been included in the current study for purposes of comparison with past research. As the 1992 study pointed out, no public opinion index is a perfect tool for measuring accurately a complex phenomenon such as anti-Semitism. The real purpose of the index is not so much for determining what precise number of Americans may be "anti-Semitic," but rather to help identify the characteristics of those Americans who clearlyhold more anti-Semitic views than the public at large.

In other words, the index is most useful for answering the question, "Which groups of Americans tend to be more anti-Semitic?" rather than the question, "How many Americans are anti-Semitic?"

Graphs
1. How many Americans Hold Prejudicial Views of Jews
2. Distribution of the Population on the Anti-Semitism Index
3. Decline in Level of Prejudice Since 1964

Next: Declining Acceptance of Nearly All Anti-Jewish Stereotypes


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1999 Anti-Defamation League