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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Declining Acceptance of Nearly All Anti-Jewish Stereotypes

There has been a decline in the level of acceptance of nearly all anti-Jewish stereotypes since 1992.

The previous anti-Semitism studies showed that acceptance of classic ethical stereotypes traditionally attributed to Jews had steadily declined from 1964 to 1992, but that this decline was accompanied by a rise in acceptance of the notion that Jews had too much power in the U.S. The 1998 survey finds a fall-off in acceptance of both strains of anti-Jewish sentiment.

The biggest drop since 1992 has come on statements about the perceived level of power Jews have in American society:

Drop in % of Americans agreeing w/ statement from 1992 to 1998

Jews have too much power in the U.S. today.* -20
Jews have too much control and influence on Wall Street. -11
Jews have too much power in the business world. -8
(*question wording slightly different in 1998 than past studies)

These declines have been accompanied by further drops in the percentage of Americans accepting some of the more classic negative stereotypes about Jewish business practices:

Drop in % of Americans agreeing w/ statement from 1992 to 1998

Jews are more willing to use shady practices to get what they want -8
Jews are [not] as honest as other businessmen -6
Jewish businessmen are so shrewd that other people do not have a fair chance at competition -5

The proportion of Americans agreeing with nearly every other anti-Jewish statement tested is also down from 1992:

Drop in % of Americans agreeing w/ statement from 1992 to 1998

Jewish employers go out of their way to hire other Jews.* -13
Jews have a lot of irritating faults.. -8
Jews still talk too much about what happened to them in the Holocaust.* -8
Jews don't care what happens to anyone but their own kind. -7
Jews always like to be at the head of things. -6
Jews have too much influence over the American news media.* -5
Jews are more loyal to Israel than to America. -3
Jews stick together more than other Americans. +6
(*denotes questions not in the 11-question index)

The one question on which the level of acceptance has increased from 1992 to 1998 is that Jews "stick together" more than other Americans. This is clearly among the least offensive of the various anti-Jewish attributes tested and, as the 1992 study pointed out, is not always considered to be a negative characteristic. Among certain segments of the population, "sticking together" is considered to be a positive attribute.

Influence Over Hollywood and the News Media

Several questions in the survey addressed public perceptions about the level of Jewish influence or control over Hollywood and the news media. The proportion of Americans who believe that Jews "have too much influence over the American news media" is down to 12% in 1998, from 17% in 1992. At the same time, there has been a slight increase, to 24% from 21%, in the percentage of Americans who feel that "the movie and television industries are pretty much run by Jewish executives."

Other results in the survey indicate that much of the public is critical of the role TV and movie executives are playing in American society. A solid majority (63%) agrees with the notion that "the people who run the TV networks and the major movie studios do not share the moral and religious beliefs of most Americans."

But the public overwhelmingly rejects the idea that the programming decisions of network executives are influenced by the fact that they might be Jewish. Fewer than one-in-ten (9%) Americans believe that "network executives who are Jewish tend to allow more sex and violence programming than non-Jewish executives."

A similar question about the perceived lack of more "Christian-oriented" television programs provokes essentially the same response. Fewer than one-in-ten (9%) Americans feel that "the executives of the three major [TV] networks may be blocking Christian-oriented programming because they are Jewish."

Positive Images of Jews

While this study, like the past ones, is focused primarily on the level of acceptance of negative stereotypes, it is important to note that a majority of Americans accept each of the positive statements about Jews which was presented in the survey.

In fact, as was seen in past studies, positive images of Jews are so prevalent that a majority of even the most anti-Semitic Americans accept four of the five positive statements which were included in the 1998 survey.

This has been a consistent finding since the 1964 study, and is not as contradictory as it may seem at first glance. As the Tenacity of Prejudice, a book based on the 1964 survey, points out: "It is in the nature of prejudice that positive beliefs coexist with negative ones."

Overall, more than four-in-five Americans believe that Jews are "just as honest as other businessmen" (85%); that they "have a strong faith in God" (83%); and that they are "warm and friendly people" (82%). A majority of Americans also believe that Jews "have contributed much to the cultural life of America" (73%) and that "because of theirhistory, Jews have a special commitment to social justice and civil rights" (61%).

Among the most anti-Semitic group of Americans, 75% believe that Jews have a strong faith in God; 64% believe they have contributed much to the cultural life of America; 61% believe Jews are warm and friendly; and 61% believe they have a special commitment to social justice. As previous surveys have shown, only on the issue of honesty does this majority fall away; 49% of the most anti-Semitic Americans say they Jews are just as honest as other businessmen, while 46% way they are not as honest.

Graphs
1. Drop in Level of Acceptance of Nearly All Anti-Jewish Stereotypes
2. Differences Between the Views of the Most Anti-Semitic Americans and the Rest of the Public
3. Acceptance of Positive Image of Jews

Next: Which Americans are Most Likely to Hold Anti-Semitic Views?


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1999 Anti-Defamation League