Increasing numbers of Americans say antisemitism is a serious problem

December 08, 2023, 4:14 PM GMT+0

Most Americans believe there has been an increase in hate crimes in the U.S., and many think that antisemitism is a serious problem. Few American adults agree with extreme statements such as "The Holocaust is a myth," but those who do are most likely to be under the age of 30.

In the latest Economist/YouGov poll, a majority of Americans say crimes motivated by hatred (racist, anti-religious, homophobic and anti-ethnic) have occurred more often in the past year than they did 10 years ago, with 33% saying they are "much higher" and 30% saying they're "somewhat higher." 18% say they're "about the same," and only 7% say hate crimes are either "somewhat lower" or "much lower."

Americans are particularly likely to say hate crimes against Jewish, Black, and Muslim people are serious problems. Nearly two-thirds (65%) believe hate crimes against Jewish people in the U.S. are a "very serious" or "somewhat serious" problem, with 62% saying the same about hate crimes against Black people, and 59% about hate crimes against Muslims. Fewer say the same of hate crimes against Christians (37%) or white people (32%).

There's a political divide about which groups are facing a serious problem of hate crimes. Democrats are much more likely than Republicans to say hate crimes against Black, Muslim, and Arab people in the U.S. are serious problems. Republicans are more likely than Democrats to say hate crimes against Christians and white people are serious.

The one exception to this divide is anti-Jewish hate crimes: 68% of Democrats and 68% of Republicans say hate crimes against Jewish people in the U.S. are a very or somewhat serious issue.

More Americans in our latest survey say antisemitism is a very or somewhat serious problem in the United States today than said so on an Economist/YouGov survey four years ago.

Now, 63% see antisemitism as a very or somewhat serious problem. Four years ago, that figure was nine points lower. The perception of antisemitism as a serious problem has jumped among Republicans, to 64% from 52% in 2019.

Perception of the seriousness of antisemitism is higher among older Americans. While majorities of all age groups say antisemitism is a very or somewhat serious problem in the U.S. today, that perception ranges from 60% among people under 30 to 77% among people 65 and older.

What do Americans consider to be antisemitic?

Most Americans — 67% — agree that Holocaust denial is antisemitic. Fewer feel that way about other items asked about. About one-third label boycotts of Israeli goods and universities antisemitic, and one in five believe opposing Israeli treatment of Palestinians is antisemitic. Republicans are more willing to say that boycotting Israeli products is antisemitic: 52% of Republicans say it is, compared to 24% of Democrats. One-third of Americans overall say that believing American Jews are more loyal to Israel than they are to the U.S. is antisemitic.

Holocaust denial is rare, but somewhat more common among younger adults

Relatively few American adults take the view (or admit they take the view) that the Holocaust is a myth. Just 7% say they strongly agree or tend to agree with that belief today, though another 16% say they neither agree nor disagree with the statement. More than three in four (77%) strongly or tend to disagree with it. Americans who believe that the Holocaust is a myth include a significant number of young adults: 20% of people under 30 strongly agree or tend to agree that the Holocaust it is a myth, compared to fewer than 1% of people 65 and older.

While few Americans dispute the Holocaust, somewhat larger shares do tend to agree with certain negative statements about Israel, including that “The interests of Israelis are at odds with the interests of the rest of the world” (18%), that “Israel has too much control over global affairs” (19%), and that “Israel exploits Holocaust victimhood for its own purposes” (20%). Even more (27%) tend to agree that “Israel is deliberately trying to wipe out the Palestinian population.” These negative assessments of Israel are more often held by young adults and by Democrats than by older adults and by Republicans, reflecting the political and age differences seen in other polling on the Israel-Hamas war.

Americans under 30 are especially likely to agree with the statement that “Jews have too much power in America,” with 28% saying they strongly or tend to agree with it. That is nearly twice as many as the share of Americans overall who agree (16%).

However, one important finding from the new poll is that the level of agreement with nearly all the statements that could be interpreted as antisemitic or anti-Israel hasn’t changed much since 2019.

— David Montgomery and Taylor Orth contributed to this article

See the toplines and crosstabs from the Economist/YouGov poll conducted on December 2 - 5, 2023 among 1,500 U.S. adult citizens.

Methodology: Respondents were selected from YouGov’s opt-in panel using sample matching. A random sample (stratified by gender, age, race, education, geographic region, and voter registration) was selected from the 2019 American Community Survey. The sample was weighted according to gender, age, race, education, 2020 election turnout and presidential vote, baseline party identification, and current voter registration status. Demographic weighting targets come from the 2019 American Community Survey. Baseline party identification is the respondent’s most recent answer given prior to November 1, 2022, and is weighted to the estimated distribution at that time (33% Democratic, 31% Republican). The margin of error for the overall sample is approximately 3%.

Image: Getty (Chip Somodevilla)