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Anti-Defamation League survey finds a spike in antisemitic beliefs

A police vehicle sits near the Congregation Beth Israel synagogue in Colleyville, Texas, on Jan. 16, 2022. Four people were held hostage at the synagogue for more than 10 hours by a gunman before being freed, one of a spate of antisemitic acts that took place last year.
Brandon Bell
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Getty Images
A police vehicle sits near the Congregation Beth Israel synagogue in Colleyville, Texas, on Jan. 16, 2022. Four people were held hostage at the synagogue for more than 10 hours by a gunman before being freed, one of a spate of antisemitic acts that took place last year.

The percentage of Americans who believe in a number of antisemitic tropes has spiked in the past three years, according to the results of an Anti-Defamation League survey released Thursday.

ADL leaders say years of antisemitic rhetoric from former President Donald Trump, along with emboldened violent extremism and lax social media policies are to blame.

The survey, which asked respondents to rate the truthfulness of 14 different traditional negative stereotypes about Jews, found that about one in five American adults say they agree with at least six such sentiments. That's compared to about one in nine in 2019, the last time this survey was conducted.

The 2022 survey, conducted last fall among 4,000 respondents, found roughly 70% agree with the statement "Jews stick together more than other Americans" and more than half agree with "Jews in business go out of their way to hire other Jews." One in three respondents agreed that "Jews do not share my values" and about 26% agreed with "Jews have too much power in the business world."

"What these findings represent, what they tell us, and what creates such urgency is the fact that large, huge numbers of Americans hold dangerous, false ideas about the Jewish people," ADL CEO Jonathan Greenblatt said in a news conference. "While it is very encouraging that the vast majority of our country doesn't hold these ideas, 50 plus million people is worrisome and it means we've got work to do."

The organization has measured agreement with these anti-Jewish tropes since 1964. Findings from that initial survey represented the peak of antisemitic beliefs, showing nearly a third of American adults then agreed with six or more of the statements. The numbers in 2022 are the highest since 1992. The decades in between show relatively lower levels of belief in antisemitic tropes. The ADL expressed alarm over the sudden jump from roughly one in nine Americans' belief in several antisemitic tropes in 2019 to one in five in 2022.

Separate data collection by the ADL has found the volume of documented reports of antisemitic harassment, vandalism and violence rising consistently since about 2015, in contrast to the more recent spike in anti-Jewish attitudes.

Matt Williams, vice president of the ADL's Center for Antisemitism Research, said that researchers have found that people are being more honest about their biases compared to decades ago.

"So one of the things we could be seeing is people agreeing with these [tropes] more. Another thing that we could be saying is people willing to admit that they agree with these [tropes] more. Both of which are cause for different kinds of concern," Williams said.

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Corrected: January 12, 2023 at 12:00 AM EST
A previous version of this story misstated the percentage of American adults who believed six or more negative stereotypes about Jewish people in a 2019 survey by the Anti-Defamation League. The correct figure was 11%.
Lisa Hagen