antisemitism on the right and left

In “Antisemitic Attitudes Across the Ideological Spectrum,” my colleague Eitan Hersh and Laura Royden show that antisemitism is much more common on the right than the left in the US today and is particularly common among young people on the far right.

Their study is complex and nuanced, and the authors acknowledge room for disagreement about whether certain survey items, especially those related to Israel, measure antisemitism. I will zero in on a few findings that I find especially interesting.

First, a pretty clear way to test a traditional aspect of antisemitism is to ask whether Jews have too much power. Rates of agreement with that claim rise dramatically as we move from the political left to right. Young adults (18-30) drive most of the antisemitism on the right, and young right-wingers are by far the most antisemitic group.

Importantly, the people who say that Jews have too much power are not thinking about (criticizing) Israel. The next two graphs show responses by the people on the left and the right who think that Jews have too much power. (The antisemitic group on the right is much larger, but these graphs show percentages within each group.) Tiny proportions on both sides cite Israel/Palestine alone. News and entertainment media, finance, and even agriculture are cited frequently as domains in which Jews are too powerful.

In one part of this complex study, respondents were asked whether Jews should be held accountable for actions by the state of Israel, but also whether Indians should be held accountable for India, and Catholics for the Vatican. The differences are very small. People who think that one group is responsible for the policies of a foreign entity think the same about the other groups as well. In all cases, this attitude becomes more prevalent as one moves from the left to the right. Interestingly, conservatives seem more committed to collective responsibility. (So much for libertarian individualism.)

Liberals do seem to treat Catholicism a bit differently. They are somewhat more likely to hold Catholics accountable for the Church than they would Jews for Israel or Indians for India. Still, only 20% of liberals would do so, compared to 60% of conservatives.

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About Peter

Associate Dean for Research and the Lincoln Filene Professor of Citizenship and Public Affairs at Tufts University's Tisch College of Civic Life. Concerned about civic education, civic engagement, and democratic reform in the United States and elsewhere.