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Poll: Nearly half of Americans see antisemitism as a very serious problem

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(JTA) — More than one in 10 American Jewish adults say they were frequently “treated poorly or harassed” due to their religion over the past year, according to a new Gallup poll.

An additional 25% said such treatment happened occasionally. A majority of American Jews, 60%, said they feel uncomfortable sharing their religious affiliation, far more than the 25% of Americans over all who said the same.

In addition, close to half of all Americans view antisemitism as a “very serious problem,” according to a separate Gallup poll, more than five times the proportion of respondents who said so the last time the polling firm asked the same question more than two decades ago.

The poll about harassment confirmed recent surveys by the American Jewish Committee and others of increased insecurity among American Jews. Gallup asked, “How often in the past year were you treated poorly or harassed because of your religion?”

The 11% of Jews who said they had faced frequent harassment was more than any other religious group asked, though Gallup said its survey sample did not include enough Muslim respondents to report their responses. It did not give a sample size or margin of error for the sample of Jewish respondents it asked.

Among Americans overall, the survey found that 2% said they were frequently harassed and 8% said they were occasionally harassed. Asked whether harassment and poor treatment had increased over the last year, 46% of Jews said it had, as opposed to 10% of Americans overall.

The Jewish responses came from self-administered online surveys conducted in May by 1,588 Jewish adults in Gallup’s survey panel. The margin of error was 3 percentage points.

Following Hamas Oct. 7 invasion of Israel, which launched the current war in Gaza, there have been widespread reports by law enforcement and communal watchdogs of a sharp spike in antisemitism. In a survey taken last fall by the AJC, largely after Oct. 7, 25% of American Jews reported experiencing an antisemitic incident of some kind in 2023.

In the Gallup poll on antisemitism in the United States, American adults overall were asked the same question they were in 2003: “Do you think that antisemitism, or prejudice against Jewish people, is currently — a very serious problem, somewhat of a problem, not much of a problem or not a problem at all — in the United States?”

This year’s poll found that 49% of respondents say that it is a very serious problem, while 32% say it is somewhat of a problem — meaning a total of 81% who believe it is a problem. Ten percent say it is not much of a problem while 8% say it isn’t a problem at all.

The poll of 1,024 U.S. adults was conducted by phone in May. It had a margin of error of 4 percentage points.

Those numbers align in part with a poll of Americans taken in February by the Pew Research Center. That poll found that 82% of Americans said there was either a lot or some discrimination against Jews in society, though only 40% said there was a lot of discrimination.

In 2003, the last time Gallup asked the question, 9% said they believed antisemitism was a serious problem while 48% said it was somewhat of a problem, a total of 57%. At the time, a total of 39% believed it wasn’t or wasn’t much of a problem. Gallup had asked the question in 2003, the firm said, to measure sentiment as Sen. Joe Lieberman mounted an ultimately unsuccessful presidential campaign.

For the first time, Gallup also asked the same question about discrimination against Muslims, and Americans seemed somewhat less concerned about Islamophobia. One third of Americans say that prejudice against Muslims is a serious problem, according to the poll, while another 41% see it as somewhat of a problem, for a total of 74% seeing it as a problem.

Ron Kampeas

Ron Kampeas is the D.C. bureau chief at the Jewish Telegraphic Agency.