Nearly 9 in 10 American Jews say antisemitism is a problem in U.S.

Asked if antisemitism had increased over the past five years, 84% said yes: 43% said a lot and 41% said somewhat.

Tower of Faces at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum (photo credit: WIKIMEDIA)
Tower of Faces at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum
(photo credit: WIKIMEDIA)
WASHINGTON – More than eight out of 10 American Jews say that antisemitism has spiked in recent years, and even more believe it to be a problem in the United States, according to an American Jewish Committee survey.
Nearly three-quarters of respondents strongly disapprove of how President Donald Trump is handling antisemitism, and significantly more see the extreme political Right as a more serious threat to them than the extreme political Left.
The telephone survey of 1,283 Jewish adults conducted from September 11 to October 6 found that 88% of respondents believe that antisemitism was a problem: 50% as “somewhat of a problem” and 38% as a “very serious” problem.
Asked if antisemitism had increased over the past five years, 84% said yes: 43% said a lot and 41% said somewhat.
Although just 2% of respondents said they had been victims of a physical antisemitic attack during that, 23% said they had been the target of an antisemitic remark in person, by mail or over the phone, and 20% said that they had been targeted through social media.
“American Jews could not be clearer about the reality of antisemitism in the US,” David Harris, CEO of the American Jewish Committee (AJC), said in a press release on Wednesday. “Our survey provides, for the first time, an in-depth assessment of American-Jewish perceptions of, and experiences with, antisemitism in their own country. This hatred is real, comes from multiple sources, and is growing. It needs to be taken seriously and dealt with in a sustained, multi-pronged response.”
Asked if they approve or disapprove of Trump’s handling of antisemitism, 72% said they disapprove – including 62% who strongly disapprove – and 24% who approve.
Trump has forcefully spoken out at times against antisemitism, but at other times has also equivocated, notably after the deadly neo-Nazi march in August 2017 in Charlottesville, Virginia. He also has downplayed the threat of violent white nationalism.
The president’s overall ratings reflected similar numbers: 76% unfavorable and 22% favorable.
Most of the respondents identified as liberal (56%) and as Democrats (53%). Among the remainder, 21% each identified as “middle of the road” and conservative, 14% said they are Republicans and 23% said they are Independents.
They were more likely to perceive a threat from the far Right and radical Muslims than they were from the Left. The extreme Right were perceived as posing a threat for 89% of respondents, including 49% who describing it as very serious and 29% calling it moderately serious.
When asked about “extremism in the name of Islam,” 85% said it posed a threat: 27% each said it was very serious and moderately serious, with 31% calling it slight. Extremism from the extreme Left was identified as a threat by 64% of respondents, with a total of 36% calling it either very serious or moderately serious and an additional 28% saying that the threat is slight.
The respondents seemed more likely to see a threat emerging from the far Right, with half (49%) calling it very serious, as opposed to significantly fewer (15%) sensing a serious threat from the far Left.
Asked about political parties and their responsibility for the current level of antisemitism, the respondents rated Republicans highest on a scale of 10 at 6.2, while Democrats were rated at 3.6.
Nearly two-thirds of respondents were either familiar or somewhat familiar with the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement targeting Israel, while 24% said they were not at all familiar with it.
Of the 1,013 respondents who had at least some familiarity with the movement, 35% characterized it as “mostly antisemitic,” 47% said it had “some antisemitic supporters” and 14% responded that it was not antisemitic.
Asked to characterize the statement “Israel has no right to exist,” 84% of respondents said it was antisemitic in nature. They were also asked to react to two other statements: “The US government only supports Israel because of Jewish money” and “American Jews are more loyal to Israel than to America.” The former was seen as antisemitic by 80% and the latter by 73%.
When questioned whether they “avoid certain places, events, or situations out of concern for your safety or comfort as a Jew,” 25% of respondents said that they did, while 31% said that they avoided “Publicly wearing, carrying, or displaying things that might help people identify you as a Jew.”
The survey did not break down those numbers to assess whether the core issue was safety or comfort, nor did it place the question in a time frame. There are factors not having to do with antisemitism that inhibit Jewish participation in certain things – many Orthodox Jews, for instance, will not enter a church because of religious prohibitions. Notably, just 5% avoided “Visiting Jewish institutions or participating in Jewish events because [they] would not feel safe there.”
The AJC said that the survey, conducted by SQL Server Reporting Services, had a margin of error of 4.2%.