New research provides evidence that antisemitic attitudes are far more prevalent on the political right in the United States. The study, published in Political Research Quarterly, indicates that prejudicial attitudes towards Jews is particularly strong among younger conservatives.
High profile incidents in the United States have raised concerns about the resurgence of antisemitism. While many of these incidents have been linked to the far right, other such incidents have been linked to left-wing groups. But the authors behind the new study observed that there was very little research into whether hatred toward Jews was more common among the far right or the far left.
“This started with conversations with Laura Royden, a PhD student at Harvard and my co-author on three studies on this topic. A few years ago, popular books about antisemitism (by Bari Weiss and by Deborah Lipstadt) discussed antisemitism in the United States as coming from both the ideological left and right,” explained study author Eitan D. Hersh (@eitanhersh), an associate professor of political science at Tufts University.
“The authors had interesting anecdotes about left versus right antisemitism. But Laura and I noticed there wasn’t much quantitative research about the relationship between political ideology and antisemitic attitudes. So we started working on a study that would capture different manifestations of anti-Jewish prejudice across the ideological spectrum. We focused the study on young people because past research had suggested that the young left and young right are hotbeds of antisemitism.”
Using the polling company YouGov, the researchers surveyed 3,500 U.S. adults, including a representative oversample of 2,500 adults ages 18–30, regarding their political ideology and attitudes towards Jews. Political ideology was measured using a 7-point scale. The respondents were also asked whether they identified as leftist, socialist, progressive, libertarian, Christian conservative, or alt-right.
The survey assessed subtler forms of prejudicial views (anti-Jewish double standards) as well as overtly antisemitic attitudes. For example, the respondents were asked to indicate the extent to which they agreed or disagreed with antisemitic statements such as “Jews are more loyal to Israel than to America” and “Jews in the United States have too much power.”
The researchers found evidence of an anti-Jewish double standard on the left. Those on the political left held Jewish Americans more responsible for the actions of Israel than they held Catholic Americans or Indian Americans responsible for the Vatican or India.
Additionally, 31% of very liberal respondents said Muslim Americans should denounce Muslim countries’ discrimination against non-Muslims, whereas 47% said that Jewish Americans should denounce Israel’s discrimination against non-Jews. Very conservative respondents showed an opposite pattern — an anti-Muslim double standard.
However, Hersh and Royden found that young far-right Americans were seven times more likely to believe that Jewish Americans should be held to account for Israel compared to young far-left Americans.
Moreover, the researchers found that agreement with overtly antisemitic statements increased from left to right. Agreement with the statements was 2-3 times higher on the far right compared to the far left. “Even when primed with information that most U.S. Jews have favorable views toward Israel — a country disfavored by the ideological left — respondents on the left rarely support statements such as that Jews have too much power or should be boycotted,” the researchers noted.
“In terms of ideology and antisemitism, we find that overt antisemitic attitudes are much more common on the young far right than the young far left,” Hersh told PsyPost. “The young right holds more prejudicial views than older conservatives as well as than liberals of all ages. On the left, we see some evidence of anti-Jewish double standards, where Jews are held to a different standard of accountability for a foreign country than are other minorities groups, such as Muslim Americans or Indian Americans. But the level of agreement with antisemitic claims is much higher on the right.”
“In this paper, we also briefly discuss a separate set of findings (which we dive into in a whole separate paper, under review) that, quite separate from an ideological effect, there is a big racial effect,” Hersh added. “Young Black and Hispanic Americans are as likely to agree to antisemitic statements as the White alt-right. Differences by racial group are apparent both among liberals and conservatives.”
The researchers controlled for factors such as age, race, and education. But the study — like all research — includes some caveats.
“We measured antisemitism in a few ways in the paper, but there are other ways to measure these prejudicial attitudes,” Hersh explained. “Some people have suggested to us that the young left and young right could have similar antisemitic views but the right is either more willing to say what they think than the left or they are more eager to agree to statements they know are anti-politically correct even if they don’t really believe them. Obviously, lots can be going on beneath the surface of these findings. But we hope that this study helps re-orient research on this topic around careful, replicable social science.”
“We just released all the survey data if any other researchers want to look it over and write their own papers! https://dataverse.harvard.edu/dataverse/antisemitism”
The study, “Antisemitic Attitudes Across the Ideological Spectrum“, was published June 25, 2022.