Anti-Semitism has arisen from all political and ideological quarters throughout modern history. There have long been left-wing and right-wing anti-Jewish hatreds, with a certain degree of blurriness and overlap. In the contemporary United States, it’s not clear what form of anti-Semitism predominates. Far-right extremists often express anti-Semitic views, and sometimes commit anti-Semitic acts. Yet anti-Israel activism, some argue, can be a cover for anti-Semitism, particularly in activist circles or on college campuses. Is anti-Semitism just an intractable problem throughout society, or is it something that people who care about it can isolate and address?

In a new paper, “Antisemitic Attitudes Across the Ideological Spectrum,” Eitan Hersh and his co-author Laura Royden take a quantitative approach to the question of where in society anti-Jewish views are most prevalent. They surveyed 3,500 U.S. adults, finding that anti-Semitic views are far more common on the right than the left, and among Black and Latino than white Americans. For Hersh, an associate professor of political science at Tufts University, these findings have significant implications for people who oppose anti-Semitism and are looking for more than anecdotal clues as to where it’s now issuing from is and what to do about it. “It’s a more challenging set of findings,” Hersh says, “for those who believe in their hearts that liberal arts college campuses are the hotbed of anti-Semitism.”


Phoebe Maltz Bovy: There’s a great deal of attention on bigotry—or hatred—today, throughout the United States and around the world. What did you find in your research that you think it’s especially important for people concerned about bigotry generally, and anti-Semitism specifically, to understand?

Eitan Hersh: We went into this trying to give a fair hearing to claims about anti-Semitism on the left and the right, particularly among young people. Young people are important here, because on both the left and the right, we think that young people are special. On the right, you see this growing radicalization with the alt-right. On the left, you see reporting of anti-Israel attitudes seeping into anti-Semitic attitudes. Our goal was to try to give as fair of a hearing as we could to these hypotheses.

We found two important things. First, unambiguously, we found more evidence on the right than on the left. Second, we found that the young right is quite different from the older right. Older conservatives don’t have the same anti-Semitic worldview as younger conservatives in our study. That’s a major point of interest here. It’s not just that it’s more on the right than the left, but that there’s something going on among the young right that merits further attention.

Bovy: You write that your findings didn’t line up with your hypotheses, and indeed they contradict much of popular opinion on the topic. Your paper is full of surprises, such as that “more respondents agree that Jews have too much power in agricultural production than who clicked only the Israel/Palestine option.” What finding surprised you the most?

Older conservatives don’t have the same anti-Semitic worldview as younger conservatives in our study. There’s something going on among the young right that merits further attention.

Hersh: We went into this project inspired by some of the public writing about anti-Semitism, such as books by Bari Weiss and Deborah Lipstadt, both of which point to anti-Semitic attitudes on both ideological left and right, but much of the evidence amounts to anecdotes. [My coauthor] and I were trying to think, How do we convert some of these propositions about anti-Semitism into a testable claim? We imagined that there would be evidence on both the left and the right. We crafted the whole study to find that evidence if it existed. For example, a lot of the discussion about left-wing anti-Semitism is about young people, so we over-sample young people. We asked for people’s [political] identities, like did they identify as a leftist or socialist.

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