While it’s said that numbers don’t lie, the truth is they do lie – or, rather, mislead.
The Anti-Defamation League’s 2011 nationwide poll on anti-Semitism seemingly found a correlation between lack of education and anti-Semitism. But an expert on anti-Semitism I spoke with wondered whether people with greater education are really less anti-Semitic or whether they’re just better at concealing their biases from pollsters.
This calls to mind what is known as the Bradley Effect, a term developed years ago when Tom Bradley, an African-American, ran for governor of California. He had a decisive lead in all the pre-election polls but ended up losing to his Republican opponent. One explanation for the unexpected outcome was that whites feared coming across to pollsters as being bigoted, so they said they planned to vote for Bradley.
Regardless, it does appear that the less educated a person is, the more likely it is that he or she will be bigoted.
Another thing: When you take into account that the survey has a margin of error of nearly 3 percent, the findings don’t necessarily reflect a 3 percent jump from 2009 of those who “hold deeply anti-Semitic views,” as the ADL reported. Nor did it necessarily find a 1 percent increase in those who agreed with the statement that “Jews have too much power in the U.S. today.”
The survey’s saddest irony concerns African American anti-Semitism, which the ADL has “consistently” found to be highest in terms of demographics. This from a group of people one might expect would empathize with Jews, who also have suffered from hatred and persecution.
Moreover, Jews during the Civil Rights era played a large and disproportionate role in helping secure basic freedoms for African Americans.
In fact, Jews were arrested and murdered while fighting for those civil rights. And Jews were among the founding members of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). Joel Spingarn served as an early president of the NAACP for nearly a decade while Jack Greenberg was an attorney for the NAACP in the precedent-setting Brown v. Board of Education case that led to the desegregation of schools.
Perhaps the scariest finding of the survey was that millions of Americas can fairly be classified as anti-Semitic in the year 2011, decades after the Holocaust and the Civil Rights movement and all we have overcome in America.
Daniel Vahab is a freelance writer for various newspapers, with a particular niche in Jewish publications. As research for his forthcoming book on anti-Semitism, he conducted an online poll on the subject with more than 700 respondents.