Anti-Semitism higher among Gen-Xers, new study finds

Generation X holds more anti-Semitic views than an older, more tolerant generation reared in the shadows of the Holocaust, according to a new survey by an S.F.-based research group.

The nationwide poll by the local Institute for Jewish & Community Research also revealed that nearly one-third of Americans are concerned that a Jewish president may have split loyalties vis-a-vis Israel.

Gary Tobin, the institute's president and an author of the report, said the findings on young people's attitudes reflect a growing "anti-Israelism" on college campuses here and nationwide that has spilled over into anti-Semitic viewpoints.

On campuses, "You can see signs that not only say 'Stop Israel,' you can see signs that say 'Stop the Jews' and it's interchangeable," Tobin said Wednesday. "It's been building for a long time.

The nationwide poll found that 24 percent of respondents ages 18 to 34 believe Jews control the U.S. news media. That is compared to 16 percent of those ages 45 to 64.

On the question of split loyalties, Tobin said it was too early to know how Americans' fears would play out in the candidacy of Sen. Joseph Lieberman (D-Conn.), an observant Jew who announced his bid last week for the 2004 Democratic presidential nomination.

"When John Kennedy ran for president, the country had to face its anti-Catholic bigotries," said Tobin, whose findings are entitled "Anti-Semitic Beliefs in the United States."

He noted, however, that, "these bigotries exist. They need to be talked about, they need to be addressed."

In a related finding that Tobin described as a "shocker to Jews," the poll found that Democrats tend to be more anti-Semitic than Republicans.

Specifically, 12 percent of Republicans view Jews as "caring only about themselves" compared with 20 percent of Democrats and independents.

"It may suggest a realignment may take place in Jewish politics in the next 20 years," Tobin said. Jews, who traditionally are registered Democrats, might move to the right and join the Republican Party, he said.

In Sacramento, a spokesman for the state's Democratic Party said the findings aren't at all reflective of views held by California's 7 million registered Democrats.

Noting that state voters handed a 1.3 million margin of victory to the Gore-Lieberman ticket in 2000, campaign adviser Bob Mulholland said "that's a pretty good sign that the country is ready" for a Jewish president.

"The best thing Democrats can do is continue to nominate and elect Jews to office," said Mulholland, who claimed that anti-Semitic sentiment among party members was coming chiefly from "white male Democrats in the South who still have Ku Klux Klan material in their closet."

Asked about the findings, Lieberman said Wednesday that polls he has seen say voters would not be dissuaded from backing him because of the dual loyalty issue.

"I've seen other polls that say the just the opposite," Lieberman told a gathering of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations. "I don't believe it's true."

And Tobin said that even if respondents are concerned about possible dual loyalty, it doesn't mean they wouldn't vote for a Jewish candidate.

"What it suggests is, the question about whether or not Jews are totally accepted as complete loyal Americans is still up for grabs in some American minds," he said.

The poll of 1,013 adults from across the United States was conducted for the institute by a Pennsylvania-based firm. The results, which were released this week, have a margin of error of 3 percent.

The findings come as the local Anti-Defamation League prepares to release an audit showing a rise in the number of anti-Semitic incidents reported locally.

"Much of the new anti-Semitism that we're experiencing right now is tending to come from the left," said Jonathan Bernstein, the ADL's regional director. "In the past, more of it had come from the extreme right."

He noted that at Saturday's massive march and rally in San Francisco protesting a U.S. attack on Iraq, there were such signs as "No War in Iraq to Protect Israel."

Tobin's poll also showed that 37 percent of Americans believe Jews are responsible for killing Jesus. "That's an age-old canard that's has been used for centuries of violence and discrimination against Jews," Tobin said.

Tobin's solution is more education and outreach. The poll results suggest that Jewish groups should work with leaders of other religions to improve education about Judaism and Israel, he said.

However, an ADL poll taken last spring contradicts the findings of increased anti-Semitism on campus.

In the ADL's poll of various U.S. demographic groups, college students were rated least likely to be anti-Semites. Only 3 percent of undergraduates are "hard-core" anti-Semites, according to the ADL poll.

Despite the headlines, "there is a negligible amount of anti-Semitism on college campuses," said the ADL's national director, Abraham Foxman.

The new poll also found that Jews have achieved a middling level of acceptance in American society.

While 49 percent of respondents said Jews were "like themselves'' in terms of basic beliefs and values — making them more accepted than Muslims, Mormons and atheists — they were seen as less mainstream than blacks, Catholics or Hispanics.