AJC Survey of American Jews Reveals Deep Concern About Rising Antisemitism in U.S.

An unprecedented survey of American Jews conducted by the American Jewish Committee reveals deep concern about antisemitism in the United States and widespread fear that it is increasing.

The findings from the AJC survey – the largest and most comprehensive ever on the subject of antisemitism in America – are being released days before the first anniversary of the deadly attack at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, which claimed the lives of 11 Jewish worshipers on October 27, 2018.

Nearly nine out of ten American Jews (88%) say antisemitism is a problem in the U.S. today, with more than a third (38%) calling it a very serious problem. 84% say antisemitism in the U.S. has increased – and a plurality, 43%, say it has increased a lot – over the past five years.

These views are consistent across age cohorts, Jewish denominations, and political affiliations. 84% of Ultra-Orthodox (Haredi), 80% of Modern Orthodox, 91% of Conservative, 94% of Reform, 92% of Reconstructionist, and 87% of secular Jews say antisemitism in the U.S. today is a very serious or somewhat of a problem, as do more than nine in ten (93%) Democrats, 87% of independents, and three quarters (75%) of Republicans.

“American Jews could not be clearer about the reality of antisemitism in the U.S.,” said AJC CEO David Harris. “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.”

American Jews Targeted

Nearly a third, 31%, of the Jews polled have avoided publicly wearing, carrying or displaying things that might help people identify them as Jews. 25% avoid certain places, events, or situations at least some of time out of concern for their safety or comfort as Jews.

One-third of American Jews say Jewish institutions with which they are affiliated have been targeted by antisemitic attacks, graffiti, or threats.

While American Jews agree that law enforcement is effective in responding to the Jewish security needs, few victims of antisemitism report them to the police.

Elected Officials’ Responsiveness

The AJC survey found an American Jewish community generally concerned that elected officials are not doing all that can and should be done to fight antisemitism in the U.S. effectively.

72% of respondents disapproved of President Trump’s handling of the threat of antisemitism in America, compared to only 24% who expressed approval. Responses diverged along political party lines. Some 84% of Republicans approve (49% strongly), while only 4% of Democrats approve, of the president’s handling of antisemitism. On the other hand, 92% of Democrats disapprove (82% strongly), while only 11% of Republicans disapprove (7% strongly).

American Jews assign greater responsibility to the Republican Party than the Democratic Party for the current level of antisemitism in the U.S. On a scale of 1 (no responsibility) to 10 (total responsibility), respondents gave the Republican Party an average score of 6.2, while the Democratic Party scored 3.6. While those who identify as Republican or Democrat tend to blame the other party, American Jews also view their own parties as having responsibility for the current level of antisemitism in the U.S., with each rating their own party with similar scores of 2.7.

Sources of Antisemitism

Asked about the threat posed by the three primary sources of antisemitism, 89% of respondents said the extreme political right poses a threat to American Jews, with 49% saying it’s a very serious threat; 64% said the extreme political left, with 15% saying it’s a very serious threat; and 85% said extremism in the name of Islam, with 27 percent saying it’s a very serious threat.

Antisemitism and Israel

American Jews view statements and actions that target the State of Israel as being tainted by antisemitism. Most notably, they overwhelmingly believe anti-Zionism – that is, the belief that Israel should not exist – to be a form of antisemitism. 84% of respondents said that the statement “Israel has no right to exist” is antisemitic, 80% said the same of the statement “The U.S. government only supports Israel because of Jewish money,” and 73% said so about the statement “American Jews are more loyal to Israel than to America.” Regarding the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) Movement against Israel, 82% said it either is mostly antisemitic (35%) or is not mostly antisemitic but has antisemitic supporters (47%).

The full AJC Survey of American Jews on Antisemitism in America is available at AJC.org/AntisemitismSurvey.

The AJC survey was conducted via telephone by SSRS, an independent research company. Interviews were conducted from September 11 – October 6, 2019, among a nationally representative sample of 1,283 respondents age 18 or older of Jewish religion or background. The margin of error is plus or minus 4.2%.