Which Americans are Most Likely to Hold
As previous studies have shown,
the propensity to hold anti-Jewish stereotypes is concentrated among less educated and
The latest survey reaffirms what all three past studies have shown -- that anti-Semitic
beliefs are most likely to be found among older Americans (those over age 65), and among
those with no college education.
Education and Anti-Semitism
A multivariate regression analysis of the 1998 survey indicates that there is a very
strong correlation between education level and likelihood of accepting anti-Jewish
stereotypes. Simply put, the more-educated
someone is, the less likely they are to accept anti-Semitic beliefs.
For example, only one-in-twenty (5%) college graduates fall into the most anti-Semitic
category in the 1998 survey, compared to about one-in-five (18%) citizens who have no more
than a high school education.
As the accompanying chart shows, the downward trend since 1992 in the
acceptance of anti-Semitic beliefs is reflected across all education levels, with drops of
between 7 and 10 points in the percentage of adults at each education level who fall into
the most anti-Semitic group.
Age and Anti-Semitism
In the three previous studies, age has been one of the strongest demographic predictors
for anti-Semitic beliefs. Although it is less of a factor in the current study, anti-Semitic beliefs continue to be noticeably more
prevalent among the elderly than among the rest of the adult population.
Those adults over age 65 remain twice as likely as those under 65 to fall into the most
anti-Semitic category. The current survey shows that 22% of Americans age 65 or older are
in the most anti-Semitic group, compared to 10% of those under 65.
Both these figures are down from 1992, when 34% of elderly Americans were in the most
anti-Semitic group, versus 17% of those under 65.
As the 1992 study found, the negative images of Jews which continue to linger among
elderly Americans include many of the traditional financial and ethical stereotypes that
have been largely rejected by the rest of the public.
Four of the seven statements that are accepted by those age 65 and over at a
significantly higher level than by younger Americans are:
- Jews have too much control and influence on Wall Street.
- Jews have too much power in the business world.
- Jewish businessmen are so shrewd that others don't have a fair chance in
- Jews are more willing than others to use shady practices.
The 1998 survey also reaffirms a trend that was discussed in the 1992 study --
namely,that the overall decline in the level of anti-Semitism in the U.S. over the
last three to four decades is a result of two factors related to age:
1.)The gradual passing on of older Americans, who are more likely to hold anti-Jewish
attitudes, and the steady and concurrent influx of younger, more tolerant citizens into
the adult population; and
2.)A slow but steady change in the attitudes toward Jews among older Americans over
their lifetime. Tracking the cohort of Americans who were alive in 1964 through the three
subsequent surveys in 1981, 1992 and 1998 reveals a gradual decrease in the propensity of
this group to accept anti-Semitic beliefs.
African-Americans continue to be significantly more
likely than white Americans to hold anti-Jewish beliefs. As with whites, education level
is the most important factor affecting the attitudes of blacks toward Jews.
Confirming the three previous studies, black Americans remain considerably more likely
than white Americans to hold anti-Semitic views
. In the 1998 survey, blacks (34%) are
nearly four times as likely as whites (9%) to fall into the most anti-Semitic category.
The overall level of anti-Semitism among African-Americans (34%) compares to 37% in
1992. This very slight decline in acceptance of anti-Jewish stereotypes has been
significantly slower among blacks than among whites, expanding the racial gap in attitudes
toward Jews in 1998.
Impact of Education in the Black Community
The current survey reaffirms the strong correlation between education level and
acceptance of anti-Jewish stereotypes among African-Americans.
Among those blacks without any college education, 43% fall into the most anti-Semitic
group. This number drops to 27% among African-Americans with some college experience, and
stands at 18% among blacks with a four-year college degree.
The overall level of anti-Semitism among all these groups is down from 1992. At the
same time, it should be noted that black Americans at all education levels are
significantly more likely than whites at the same level to accept anti-Jewish stereotypes.
The most anti-Semitic Americans tend to have
less day-to-day contact with Jews than does the rest of the population.
The current survey shows that the most anti-Semitic Americans tend to have less contact
with Jews in their day-to-day life than do other Americans.
Only about one-in-four (26%) of the most anti-Semitic Americans report that they come
in contact with people of the Jewish faith very or fairly often -- either socially or
where they work. Among the "not anti-Semitic" group, by comparison, 45% say they
come in contact with Jews at least fairly often.
Similarly, the most anti-Semitic Americans are somewhat less likely to report having
Jewish friends or relatives. Fewer than one-in-three (30%) respondents in the most
anti-Semitic group say they count at least one Jewish person among their acquaintances,
compared to 43% in the not anti-Semitic group.
This finding differs from the 1992 survey, which showed little correlation between
aperson's level of contact with Jews and their propensity to hold anti-Semitic beliefs.
Perceptions of Jewish Population in the United States
As the 1992 study showed, Americans significantly overestimate the size of the Jewish
population in the U.S. About one-in-five (21%) Americans estimate that Jews comprise less
than 10% of the U.S. population (the actual figure is about 2.5%), while 43% put the
figure somewhere between 10% and 25%. Roughly one-in-four (23%) Americans estimate that
Jews make up more than 25% of the total U.S. population. The most anti-Semitic
Americans are significantly more inclined than others to overestimate the size of the
Jewish population, with 37% estimating that Jews comprise more than a quarter of the total
Next: Anti-Semitism and Racism,
Xenophobia and Intolerance