Study shows nearly one in three Britons hold “antisemitic views”

Safya Khan-Ruf - 14 09 17

Over a quarter of British people ‘hold anti-Semitic attitudes’, according to a new study of attitudes towards Jewish people in Britain.

The Institute for Jewish Policy Research (JPR) said the findings came from the “largest and most detailed survey of attitudes towards Jews and Israel ever conducted in Britain”.

While antisemitic views and tropes are common and can make Jews feel uncomfortable, the report – Antisemitism in Contemporary Great Britain: A study of attitudes towards Jews and Israel – shows there are only 2.4% hard anti-Semites with an open dislike of Jews in Britain.

“Because antisemitic ideas circulate in society well beyond this group, there is a much larger number of people who believe a small number of negative ideas about Jews but who may not be consciously hostile or prejudiced towards them,” said Jonathan Boyd, director of the JPR, at the report’s launch on 12 September.

Report: Antisemitism in Contemporary Great Britain /JPR

When questioned about whether they agreed with a number of statements, including “Jews think they are better than other people” and “Jews exploit holocaust victimhood for their own purposes”, 30% agreed with at least one statement.

While the JPR reports the level of antisemitism in Great Britain is one of the lowest in the world, antisemitic attitudes still needs to be tackled.

“Thinly scattered, weakly held antisemitic attitudes matter, because these are the attitudes British Jews will encounter,” said Boyd, at the opening launch.

Report: Antisemitism in Contemporary Great Britain /JPR


Just one percent of people said it would be acceptable to be violent towards Jews because of their religious beliefs, making the Jewish community the least threatened group among minorities. Against Muslims, the response reached around 7.5%, and against immigrants it was around 7% – the same level of potential violence threatened against banks or big businesses.

Surveying Israel

The JPR surveyed attitudes towards Israel separately from attitudes towards Jews. The researchers believe that while anti-Israel attitudes are not as a general rule antisemitic, the stronger a person’s views against Israel, the more likely they are to hold antisemitic attitudes.

It revealed that around 12% hold “hard-core” negative views of the country. More than half the respondents – 56% – hold at least one negative view of Israel.

“Antisemitism and anti-Israel attitudes exist both separately and together,” Boyd said. “The position of the British population towards Israel can be characterised as one of uncertainty or indifference but among those who hold a view, people with sympathies towards the Palestinians are numerically dominant.”

More than half of the participants endorsed at least one hard-line anti-Israel statement. The researchers also found less than one in five people questioned (17%) had a favourable opinion of Israel.

Comparing antisemitic attitudes with political affiliation, the report showed people with “very right-wing” politics were two to four times more likely than the general population to have antisemitic attitudes.

Report: Antisemitism in Contemporary Great Britain /JPR

The Muslim population of Britain had consistently higher levels of both anti-Israeli and antisemitic attitudes – two to four times higher than in the general population. The study also found a correlation between levels of religiosity and anti-Israeli attitudes.

Despite this, 60% of Muslim respondents agreed with the statement: “A British Jew is just as British as any other person”  and most either disagreed with, or were neutral, on every one of the antisemitic statements presented to them.

While surveys on antisemitism in the UK are plentiful, the researchers argue it is “too light on social meaning to be of much practical or policy value”.

READ: Antisemitism in Contemporary Great Britain: A study of attitudes towards Jews and Israel


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