Anti-Semitism has arisen from all political and ideological quarters throughout modern history. There have long been right-wing and left-wing anti-Jewish hatreds, with a certain degree of blurriness and overlap between them. In the contemporary United States, it’s not always clear what forms predominate. Far-right extremists often express anti-Semitic views and sometimes commit anti-Semitic acts. Yet anti-Israel rhetoric on the left can also surface anti-Jewish sentiments, particularly in activist circles or on college campuses. Is anti-Semitism just an intractable problem, or are new dynamics driving it today?

In a new paper, “Antisemitic Attitudes Across the Ideological Spectrum,” Eitan Hersh—an associate professor of political science at Tufts University—and his co-author Laura Royden take a quantitative approach to the question of where in society anti-Jewish views are most prevalent. Hersh and Royden surveyed 3,500 U.S. adults, finding that anti-Semitic views are far more common on the right than on the left, and among Black or Latino than white Americans. To Hersh, these findings have significant implications for the question of where anti-Jewish bigotry is coming from—and the practical question of what can be done 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 real hotbeds 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?

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