Survey says

ADL poll finds antisemitic views decreasing in Europe, but more common in the east

Survey of 10 European countries finds Hungarians had highest levels of antisemitic attitudes while the Dutch had the lowest; ‘dual loyalty’ canard common across the continent

Western Europeans are less likely to hold antisemitic views than Eastern Europeans, though both are likely to believe that Jewish citizens are more loyal to Israel than to their home countries, according to a new survey by the Anti-Defamation League released Wednesday.

Right-wing Europeans were also found to be more likely to harbor antisemitic views than their progressive counterparts.

While many Western European respondents said they sympathized more with Palestinians than with Israelis, the survey found that support for boycotts of Israel was low across the continent.

The poll comprised 6,569 phone interviews with randomly selected citizens of 10 European countries over the course of two and a half months this winter. The interviews included 11 questions “measuring general acceptance of various negative Jewish stereotypes,” which were used to establish an index score for each country. “Survey respondents who said at least six out of the 11 statements are ‘probably true’ are considered to harbor extensive antisemitic attitudes,’ according to the ADL.

The survey, which has been conducted four times in the past nine years, found a significant drop in Ukraine’s index score from the previous poll, from 46% of respondents indicating antisemitic attitudes in 2019 to 29% expressing them in 2023, a drop that ADL CEO Jonathan Greenblatt attributed to the popularity of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.

“While the survey findings do not directly address questions of causality, there’s no doubt that having a Jewish president who is being praised for his response to Russian aggression seems to have affected perceptions of Jews among ordinary Ukrainian citizens,” Greenblatt said in a statement.

Poland similarly saw a decrease in antisemitic attitudes, from 48% in 2019 to 35% in 2023. Hungary, which had a far smaller drop, emerged as the country with the highest index score of antisemitic attitudes at 37%.

While overall index scores decreased for each of the 10 countries polled – Belgium, France, Germany, Netherlands, Spain, United Kingdom, Ukraine, Russia, Hungary and Poland – the ADL survey found that certain stereotypes have become more widely held in some countries. Respondents in the United Kingdom and France, for instance, were more likely to say that Jews had dual loyalty with Israel this year compared to 2019.

“It’s disturbing that so many Europeans continue to subscribe to some of the most dangerous antisemitic canards from history, including that Jews are inherently greedy, that they control government and finance, or are more loyal to Israel. And unfortunately, this has not gotten better since our last poll of the region in 2019,” Greenblatt said. “These noxious ideas historically motivated antisemitic attacks and should never be taken lightly, especially on a continent that witnessed the Holocaust.”

Spain remained the Western European country with the highest index score – roughly a quarter of respondents expressed significant antisemitic attitudes – while the Netherlands remained the European country with the lowest level, with 6% of respondents expressing antisemitic views. 

“Even in countries with relatively low index scores, like the Netherlands, there are significant numbers of people who harbor antisemitic opinions. In larger countries, index scores can translate to tens of millions of people,” the ADL warned.

The “dual loyalty” claim was the most common one heard in Western Europe and in Poland, where it was expressed in large numbers even in countries with low index scores. In Hungary and Ukraine, the most common stereotype was that “Jews have too much power in the business world,” while in Russia, the most common was that “Jews don’t care what happens to anyone but their own kind.”

The survey found that while antisemitic views were held by Europeans of all political stripes, such sentiment was more common among those who identified as right-wing or conservative. In Western Europe, 18% of left-wing/progressive respondents expressed antisemitic views, compared to 14% of moderates/centrists and 25% of right-wing/conservative respondents. In Eastern Europe, 28% of left-wing/progressives harbored antisemitic views, as did 28% of moderates/centrists, while 42% of right-wing/conservatives expressed antisemitic attitudes.

The poll found that Europeans are generally aware of the Holocaust, with upwards of 85% of respondents saying they had heard about it in every country except for Ukraine, where 81% said they had heard of it, and Russia, where 72% had heard of it. There is also virtually no “outright” Holocaust denial in Europe, with between 0% and 1% of respondents agreeing with the statement “The Holocaust is a myth and did not happen.” However, Holocaust distortion is more common in Eastern Europe, with 19% of Hungarians and Ukrainians, 17% of Russians and 15% of Poles expressing some form of skepticism regarding the Holocaust, like that the number of Jews killed has been “greatly exaggerated,” the survey found.

“Many, if not most, countries in Europe still have a long way to go in educating their people about the sordid history and current-day reality of antisemitism,” said Marina Rosenberg, ADL Senior VP of International Affairs. “Jewish life continues in many of these countries, and we need to ensure that their governments are doing everything they can to provide a safe and secure future for their Jewish citizens.”