Most Americans Say Jews Face Bias, Poll Finds

(CN) – Amid a reignited culture war in modern politics, the Pew Research Center reported Monday that a majority of Americans now say Jews are discriminated against, but not to the extent of perceived bias against other minority groups.

(AP Photo/Mark Lennihan)

In a survey of 1,503 adults from March 20-25, Pew researchers found an increase in the number of people who believe Jews face at least some discrimination. In 2016, 44% overall said that Jewish people faced discrimination – 13% said “a lot,” 31% said “some.” In the latest survey, that number jumped to 64% of respondents who said Jews face discrimination.

Though several groups ranked higher in the overall view of people facing discrimination – including Muslims, black people, gays and lesbians, and women – those who felt that Jewish people face discrimination saw the largest overall spike in the last three years.

In fact, both Democrats and Republicans demonstrated parallel spikes in the view that Jews faced “a lot” of anti-Semitism. The share of Democratic respondents who agreed with that view rose from 15% to 28% since 2016, and the number of Republican respondents with that belief increased from 9% to 20%.

Overlapping with the data, recent news events and changing perspectives have renewed conversations about anti-Semitism in America. Congresswoman Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., a Somali-American Muslim, found herself at the epicenter of this conversation after a string of comments that some characterized as anti-Semitic. 

Since taking office in January, Omar has criticized the American Israel Public Affairs Committee for having outsized influence over policy in Congress. Additionally, an edited video surfaced last week which showed Omar characterizing the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks as “some people who did something.”

Over the weekend, President Donald Trump tweeted a video that featured her comments spliced in with footage of the World Trade Center collapse, commenting, “WE WILL NEVER FORGET!”

Though many lawmakers came to Omar’s defense after the president’s recent comments about her, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., her statements about Israel have nonetheless reignited fears about anti-Semitism in America.

Omar’s status as a Muslim-American is a notable underpinning of the criticisms toward her, as geopolitical relations between Muslims and Jews have historically been tenuous, particularly between Israel and Palestine. Such relations remain a controversial topic in American foreign policy conversations. 

However, the issue of discrimination and cultural issues surrounding identity in America is complex.

Schisms along party lines were once again evident in Pew’s latest survey. For example, 75% of Democratic respondents acknowledged widespread discrimination against Muslims, up 56% from 2013. While more Republican respondents (34%) said that Muslims face a lot discrimination than in 2013 (31%), the percentage has fallen since 2016.

Additionally, 69% of Democratic respondents said that black people face a lot of discrimination, which spiked from 28% in 2013. In contrast, only 19% of Republican respondents felt that black people face a lot of discrimination, which rose only 8% since 2013.

An increased number of Democrats also said gays and lesbians face significant discrimination – 57% this year versus 46% in 2013.

Inversely, only 22% of Republican respondents said members of the LGBT community face a lot of discrimination, down 8% from 2013.

Republicans reported similar views about significant discrimination against women as they did in years past. Since 2013, acknowledgement of such discrimination rose only 1 point to 10% in the latest survey. In contrast, 44% of Democrats said women faced a lot discrimination, up 24% since 2013.

While Americans see significant discrimination against several minority groups and view anti-Semitism as a rising problem, researchers also found the hallmark partisan divisions of the current political era amid renewed attention on bias against Jewish people.

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