Largest-ever surveys of American Jews and the U.S. general public on antisemitism in America reveal common concern, differing perspectives on Jew-hatred

American Jewish Committee (AJC) today released its 2021 State of Antisemitism in America report based on new national polling of the U.S. Jewish and general adult populations. The surveys, the largest and most comprehensive of their kind ever conducted, confirm that hatred of Jews remains a severe problem in the United States, requiring urgent attention—and that American Jews and the U.S. general public view the problem very differently.

Both Jews and non-Jews were asked about their perceptions and experiences of antisemitism over the past 12 months, including during the conflict between Israel and Hamas in May of this year. The AJC study provides insights into the views within each group and comparisons between the two on key issues regarding antisemitism. 

“This critical report confirms that American Jews are deeply concerned about antisemitism in America—and many are limiting their behavior as a result,” said AJC CEO David Harris. “That one in four American Jews has been the target of antisemitism over the past year alone, and that four out of ten have taken steps to conceal their Jewishness or curtail their activities as a result, should alarm all Americans. Now is the time for American society to stand up and say ‘enough is enough.’ American Jews see antisemitism on the far right and the far left, among extremists acting in the name of Islam, and elsewhere throughout America. It is 2021, and a disturbing number of Jews in America are afraid of identifying openly as Jewish for fear of attack. Where is the outrage? Where is the recognition that antisemitism may begin with Jews but, ultimately, targets the fabric and fiber of any democratic society?”

One in Four Jews Have Been the Victims of Antisemitism Over the Past Year

Approximately one in four (24%) American Jews has been the target of antisemitism over the past 12 months: 17% said they had been the targets of antisemitic remarks in person, 12% said they had been the targets of antisemitism online or on social media, and 3% said they had been the victims of physical attacks.

Consequently, approximately four out of every ten American Jews (39%) have changed their behavior out of fear of antisemitism: 25% have avoided posting content online that would enable others to identify them as Jewish or reveal their views on Jewish issues; 22% have avoided wearing or displaying things that might enable others to identify them as Jewish; and 17% have avoided certain places, events, or situations due to concerns about their safety or comfort as Jews.

Four in ten Americans of all backgrounds (41%) have personally witnessed an antisemitic incident in the last 12 months, with 31% having witnessed more than one.

Jews are Nearly Twice as Likely as Non-Jews to Perceive Rising Antisemitism

There is some discrepancy between the Jewish and general populations regarding the severity of antisemitism in the U.S.  

90% of American Jews think antisemitism is a problem in the United States today, with 41% saying it is a very serious problem and only 10% saying it is not a problem. At the same time, a far smaller majority (60%) of the U.S. general public says antisemitism is a problem, with 25% saying it is not much of a problem or not a problem at all. 

While 82% of American Jews believe antisemitism has increased over the past five years, only 44% of the U.S. general public shares that view, with 15% of Americans saying antisemitism has actually gone down, compared to only 3% of American Jews who say the same.

Regarding the spike in attacks on Jews during the Israel-Hamas conflict in May, the AJC report found that U.S. adults were far less likely than American Jews to have heard about violent antisemitism at that time. While 71% of American Jews said they had heard “a lot” or “some” about Jews being attacked during that period, only 48% of the general adults said the same, and 53% said they’d heard “not much” or “nothing at all.”

Significantly, of the large majority of American Jews who heard about the attacks on Jews in May 2021, 72% said it made them feel less safe as Jews in the United States.

Both groups were asked if antisemitism is taken more or less seriously than other forms of hate and bigotry. 46% of Jews and 38% of U.S. adults said it is taken less seriously, 37% of Jews and 47% of U.S. adults said it is considered to be the same as other forms of hate and bigotry, and 16% of Jewish respondents and 15% of the general population said antisemitism is taken more seriously.

Both Jews and Non-Jews Perceive Hostility to Israel as Antisemitic

More than 80% of both Jews and the U.S. general public consider anti-Zionism—as represented by the statement “Israel has no right to exist”—antisemitic. This includes 92% of Republicans and 83% of Democrats. Similarly, large majorities of both Jews and non-Jews view the statement “American Jews are loyal to Israel and disloyal to America” as antisemitic, with 85% of Jews and 73% of the general public saying so.

While most Americans have not heard much or anything at all about the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel, those who have believe it has antisemitic elements: of those who expressed some familiarity with the movement, 82% of Jews and 63% the U.S. general public said the movement is either antisemitic as a whole or has antisemitic supporters, with under 15% saying the movement is not antisemitic.

Antisemitism on College Campuses

50% of American Jews believe antisemitism on college campuses has increased over the past five years, 23% said it has stayed the same, and 3% said it has decreased. College students and their parents were nearly three times as likely as other respondents to say that they or someone they know had experienced antisemitism on a college campus, with four in ten (42%) answering in the affirmative compared to only 15% of other respondents.

Elected Officials and Antisemitism

Jewish respondents were asked about the way elected officials are responding to antisemitism in the U.S.

● 53% approve and 28% disapprove of how President Biden is responding to antisemitism in the United States.

● 28% approve and 50% disapprove of how Congress is responding.

● 42% approve and 36% disapprove of the response by state and local government.

● 20% approve and 65% disapprove of the Republican Party’s response.

● 45% approve and 40% disapprove of the Democratic Party’s response.

Confidence in Law Enforcement

66% of American Jews said law enforcement is effective in responding to the needs of the Jewish community, a drop from 81% in 2019. Of those who had been the targets of antisemitism online or through social media, 95% did not report the incident(s) to police, although almost one in five (18%) said these incidents made them feel physically threatened. In addition, 96% of those who had been a target of an antisemitic remark in person did not report the incident(s) to the police.

Sources of Antisemitism

Asked about the threat posed by the three primary sources of antisemitism, 91% of the Jewish respondents said the extreme political right poses a threat to American Jews, with 45% saying it’s a very serious threat; 86% identified extremism in the name of Islam as posing an antisemitic threat, with 24% saying poses a very serious threat; and 71% said the extreme political left poses an antisemitic threat, with 19% saying it is a very serious threat.

Familiarity with the Term “Antisemitism”

About one-third of Americans over the age of 18 still are not familiar with the term “antisemitism.” 65% have heard of it and know what it means, representing an increase compared to last year, when only 53% of respondents said so. 18% have heard it but are unsure what it means, and 16% have never heard of the term.

The surveys of American Jews and U.S. adults were conducted for the nonpartisan American Jewish Committee (AJC) by the independent research firm SSRS. National representative samples of 1,433 Jews, ages 18 or older, were interviewed by telephone and online from September 1 – October 3, 2021, and 1,214 general population adults, 18 or older, via the SSRS Opinion Panel, from September 9 – September 22, 2021. The margin of error for both surveys is +/-3.9 percentage points at the 95% confidence level.