New York, NY, February 23, 2004 … On the eve of the release of Mel Gibson's controversial film "The Passion of the Christ," a poll commissioned by the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) has found that one in four Americans believe that Jews were responsible for the death of Jesus.
A national poll of 1,200 American adults conducted December 1-4, 2003 by The Marttila Communications Group of Boston found that 25 percent of those surveyed accepted the statement, "Do you think that Jews were responsible for the death of Christ?" as being "probably true." The poll has a margin of error of +/- 2.8 percent.
"We are extremely concerned that one out of four Americans accepts the notion that Jews were responsible for the death of Jesus," said Abraham H. Foxman, ADL National Director. "While we cannot predict what impact Mel Gibson's film will have on audiences, it is troubling that so many Americans already accept the notion of Jewish guilt. We are concerned that Mr. Gibson's film – with its unambiguous blaming of the Jews – will not only reinforce those views, but could exacerbate the problem by convincing even more people that his version of the story of the Crucifixion is Gospel truth."
ADL's findings on the "deicide" charge almost exactly mirror those of a previous survey. In ADL's 2002 survey of 1,000 adults, 26 percent said that Jews were responsible for the death of Jesus.
While a recent poll conducted by ABC News/Primetime found that fewer than one in 10 Americans believe the "decide" charge, that poll phrased the question differently, asking respondents if Jews "today" are responsible for the death of Jesus.
A Lingering Canard
Despite decades of positive interfaith relations and teachings aimed at rejecting the notion of Jewish guilt in the Crucifixion, surveys over the last four decades have found that the question about "deicide" has remained constant – at about 25 percent of the population. Previous ADL surveys on anti-Semitism in America have found that while the overall level of anti-Semitism has steadily declined since 1964, reaching historic lows in the late 1990s, the number of Americans who accept the canard that "the Jews killed Christ" has remained virtually unchanged over a span of four decades.
"This demonstrates that with all the positive declarations and education by the Catholic Church and many protestant denominations, there still is much work to be done to inculcate the current teachings that Jews are not responsible for the death of Jesus," Mr. Foxman said.
ADL has long been active in this effort, producing a series of study guides and analysis, often in conjunction with Christian leaders, to disseminate information on the historical impact of the deicide charge. "The issue now takes on such immediacy that ADL is committed to deeper and broader investigation of the public's views on the subject. We are developing programs, in conjunction with Christian leaders, to reinforce Christian teaching of the last 50 years," Mr. Foxman said.