Poll Says Anti-Semitism Is Global Matter

About a quarter of the world's population agrees that a number of negative statements about Jews are "probably true," according to a poll aimed at providing a statistical underpinning to the question of how widespread anti-Semitism is globally.

In the survey to be released Tuesday, which covered 101 countries plus the Palestinian territories, 26% of respondents agreed with at least six of 11 negative statements—what its sponsor called stereotypes—about Jews. The questions included "Jews are more loyal to Israel than [their home] country," and "Jews have too much power in the business world."

The poll was sponsored by the Anti-Defamation League, a leading organization for fighting anti-Semitism and other prejudice, and funded by New York business leader and philanthropist Leonard Stern. The pollster, First International Resources, conducted 53,100 interviews in 96 languages, and its sponsors said it was the most extensive survey ever on anti-Semitism.

The League said its goal was to create a snapshot of anti-Semitic views in all parts of the world, to find ways to combat it, and to allow future surveys to measure whether, and where, the prejudice is rising or falling.

Abraham Foxman, the League's national director, said he was taken aback that anti-Semitism remained so prevalent.

"You would think—I would think—that 70 years after the Holocaust, with all the marvels of communication, of greater openness…that it would be low," said Mr. Foxman, who has worked for the New York-based League since 1965 and headed the group since 1987. "So it's maybe not shocking, but it's sobering."

The only religious group with a higher unfavorability rating in the survey than Jews was Muslims. While 38% rated Jews favorably and 21% unfavorably, both numbers were higher for Muslims, with 47% rating them favorably and 24% unfavorably. In comparison, 62% rated Christians favorably and just 15% unfavorably, the survey found.

Countries in the Middle East and North Africa, which generally have a contentious relationship with Israel, have by far the highest proportion of people responding with anti-Semitic views, with an average of 74%, the survey found.

Outside that region, Greece had the highest percentage, with 69% of the people surveyed affirming six or more of the anti-Semitic statements. Anti-Semitism and other forms of prejudice tend to rise during times of economic hardship, and Greece has been struggling with a downturn. The extremist party Golden Dawn, which has blamed Jews and other minorities for the country's woes, has made significant inroads there.

South Korea's results showed that negative views of Jews weren't necessarily tied to proximity, with 53% of those surveyed affirming six or more of the anti-Semitic statements. The country has about 100 Jews, according to the Jewish Virtual Library, an online encyclopedia.

The survey's findings didn't all support anti-Semitic views. While 26% agreed with six or more of the anti-Semitic statements, 28% didn't believe that any of them was "probably true."

In the U.S., 9% of those surveyed subscribed to six of the 11 statements, giving it one of the lowest levels of anti-Semitism. The U.S. is the only country where the League has conducted such surveys for years; the figure has dropped from 29% in the first survey, in 1964.

Laos was the least anti-Semitic country in the new poll, with 0.2% of the population exhibiting such views.

Measuring the problem may be easier than changing attitudes.

"It's not going to bring about an antidote, a vaccine, a quick fix," Mr. Foxman said. "We don't even know, with great humility, why [anti-Semitism is so prevalent]. But first you need recognition that there is a problem, so that will be our first priority. I'm sure there will be governments saying it's not true."

The survey didn't find a correlation between anti-Semitism and anti-Israel views. The relationship between the two attitudes is complex.

Though some Jewish leaders argue that only anti-Semitism can explain the harshness of some attacks on Israel, many critics of Israeli policy reject the notion that criticism of the country reflects an anti-Jewish bias.

In the Netherlands, for example, the survey showed that 43% of the population had a negative attitude toward Israel but only 5% accepted six or more of the anti-Semitic statements.

In a separate conclusion, the survey found that 35% of respondents had never heard of the Holocaust. And fully 66% had either not heard of it or didn't believe the historical accounts were accurate.

Younger people were significantly less aware of the Holocaust than older people. While 61% of those over 50 years old knew about the tragedy, only 48% of people under 35 were aware of it. That trend is expected to continue with the fading of the generation that lived through the Holocaust, which ended nearly 70 years ago.

Mr. Foxman said a survey of this kind would have been useful long before now, but the money wasn't there. The League declined to disclose the cost.

Among the statements listed were "People hate Jews because of the way they behave"; "Jews think they are better than other people"; "Jews have too much control over the U.S. government"; and "Jews still talk too much about what happened to them in the Holocaust."

Respondents had the choice of answering "probably true," "probably false" or "I don't know."

The West Bank and the Gaza Strip had the highest proportion of people agreeing with at least six anti-Semitic views, with 93%, the survey said. Outside those territories, the country with the highest proportion in the survey was Iraq, with 92%. Iran, with 56%, had the lowest proportion of any country in the Middle East and North Africa.

Both China and India, two rising global powerhouses, came in at 20%, below the global average.

Several recent incidents have raised awareness of anti-Semitism around the world. A man with a long history of anti-Jewish views shot and killed three people outside Jewish institutions in Kansas City. All three turned out not to be Jewish.

In Europe, the French comedian Dieudonne M'bala M'bala has popularized a gesture called the "quenelle," interpreted by many as an inverted Nazi salute. Some of his followers have taken to posting online photos of themselves performing the salute at Jewish sites like synagogues and cemeteries.

In Ukraine, the pro-Russian and pro-Western factions have each accused the other of anti-Semitism. But both sides deny it, and Jewish leaders in Ukraine largely dismiss the charge.

The survey found that 38% of those in Ukraine and 30% in Russia hold anti-Semitic views.

An annual report released in late April found that anti-Jewish incidents—as opposed to the attitudes or views measured by the League survey—fell by nearly 20% world-wide in 2013 from 2012.

That report, issued by Tel Aviv University and the European Jewish Congress, said the 554 incidents in 2013 represented a return to more typical recent levels after a year in which attacks soared, possibly due to Europe's economic downturn and the ascent of extremist parties.

Despite the decline in attacks and other incidents, the Tel Aviv University report concluded that "anti-Semitism is on the rise," citing "the growing intensity of, and increase in, visual and verbal expressions, insults, abusive language and behavior, threats and harassments."

In contrast, Tuesday's Anti-Defamation League report drew no conclusions about whether anti-Semitism is rising or falling. Organizers hope future surveys help fill in that picture.

Aside from First International Resources, the polling and communications firm which conducted the poll, the fieldwork was done by Anzalone Liszt Grove Research. The margin of error in most countries, where 500 people were interviewed, was 4.4%. In some larger countries, where the sample size was 1,000, it was 3.2%.

The survey suggested that countries with fewer Jewish residents can be as anti-Semitic as those where residents are likelier to meet Jews. Of the poll's 26% of respondents who held anti-Semitic views, 70% had never met a Jewish person.