Comparison of results from 2005 and 2020
Decline in antisemitic beliefs
The results show that support for traditional and Holocaust related antisemitic ideas weakened between 2005 and 2020, while the proportion who distanced themselves from these notions increased (2). Yet they also show that antisemitic beliefs continue to be held by a significant minority of the population.
Central to antisemitic thinking are conspiratorial beliefs that hold Jews as a group to have great power and influence over national and global events. This issue was addressed in four statements. In 2005, 15 per cent of respondents agreed in full or in part with the statement ‘The Jews have too much influence in the world today’; in 2020, the proportion was 11 per cent. In 2005, 17 per cent agreed to some degree with the statement ‘The Jews control US foreign policy’; in 2020, it had fallen to 12 per cent. In 2005, 26 per cent agreed in full or in part with the statement ‘The Jews have great influence over the world economy’; in 2020, the proportion was 21 per cent. In 2005, 19 per cent agreed in full or in part with the statement ‘The Jews have a strong influence over the media’; in 2020, the proportion had decreased to 13 per cent. Between 2005 and 2020, the proportion who to some degree distanced themselves from such statements also increased.
The view that Jews are themselves to blame for antisemitism was investigated with two statements. In 2005, 6 per cent agreed in whole or in part with the statement ‘The persecution and hatred of the Jews is partly the Jews own fault’; in 2020, it had fallen to 3 per cent. In 2005, 4 per cent agreed to some degree with the statement ‘The Jews crucified Jesus Christ and their suffering is a punishment for this crime’; in 2020, the proportion was 3 per cent.
Antisemitism related to the Holocaust was investigated using two questions. In 2005, 14 per cent agreed in full or in part with the statement ‘The Jews use the Nazi extermination of the Jews (the Holocaust) for economic and political purposes’; in 2020, it had fallen to 10 per cent. In 2005, 17 per cent agreed with the statement ‘The Jews believe they are the only ones who have suffered (in the past)’; in 2020, the proportion was 13 per cent. Between 2005 and 2020, the proportion who distanced themselves from such statements rose.
Conspiracy theory about Soros
The 2020 study examined support for the global conspiracy theory that the American Jewish investor and philanthropist George Soros is an all-powerful puppet master and driving force behind complex global issues. This conspiracy theory is commonly peddled among right-wing extremists and nationalists, but it is found in other political contexts too. Sometimes it is blatantly antisemitic, sometimes not, but even where it is not openly antisemitic the framing of the myth closely resembles traditional antisemitic conspiracy theories.
The statement used was ‘The financier George Soros secretly controls most of what happens in the world’. 10 per cent answered ‘I think there is something to it’, 39 per cent rejected the statement as false, and 51 per cent answered ‘Don’t know’.
To determine whether those who believed the conspiracy theory also agreed with explicitly antisemitic opinions, the study looked at the extent to which respondents agreed with traditional and Holocaust related antisemitic statements, which were part of a multidimensional index. The results show that not everyone who believed the conspiracy theory about Soros held antisemitic beliefs, but, equally, among them there was a strong over-representation of people who to different degrees harboured traditional antisemitic ideas (see Chapter 6). (The Soros conspiracy theory was not included in the 2005 study, so there are no previous results to compare with.)
Slight decline in antisemitism related to Israel
Criticism of Israel is not antisemitism per se, but antisemitic tropes are sometimes present in contexts relating to the State of Israel and the Israeli–Palestinian conflict (see Chapter 3). The results show that support for antisemitic attitudes and ideas when talking about Israel fell slightly between 2005 and 2020.
In 2005, 7 per cent agreed in whole or in part with the statement ‘Because of Israel’s policies, I increasingly dislike Jews’; in 2020, the proportion was 6 per cent. In 2005, 9 per cent agreed to some degree with the statement ‘As long as Israel exists, we will not have peace in the world’; in 2020, the proportion was 7 per cent. In 2005, 26 per cent agreed in whole or in part with the statement ‘Israel’s policies are characterised by a vengefulness rooted in the Old Testament (‘An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth’)’; in 2020, it had decreased to 23 per cent.
The statements that were used reflect antisemitic beliefs and notions, but it cannot be ruled out that that there are some respondents who wanted to express criticism of Israeli policies and agreed with one of the latter statements without reflecting on their implications. This should be borne in mind when interpreting the results. (The 2020 questionnaire also had a question to measure criticism of Israel’s policies without reference to antisemitic attitudes and stereotypes; see Chapter 6).
Increased acceptance of a Jewish prime minister
Sympathy and antipathy towards Jews (social distance) was examined by asking whether the respondent would accept a Jew as a family member, neighbour, or boss, and with the statement ‘It would be totally acceptable for a Jew to be prime minister of Sweden’. The answers to the latter question should to some extent indicate the extent to which Swedish Jews were seen and ‘accepted’ as Swedes.
The results show that the proportion who approved of the idea of a Swedish prime minister who is Jewish increased markedly compared to 2005, while the proportion who distanced themselves from the idea fell significantly: in 2005, 48 per cent agreed in full or in part with the statement; in 2020, the proportion was 66 per cent. The proportion who disagreed with the statement fell somewhat from 25 per cent in 2005 to 15 per cent in 2020.
The questions about accepting a Jew as a family member, neighbour, or boss were not asked in 2005, so a comparison is not possible. According to the 2020 results, 89 per cent agreed in full or in part they would accept a Jewish family member, while 6 per cent disagreed somewhat. Similarly, 96 per cent would and 2 per cent would not accept ‘a Jew as a neighbour’, and 94 per cent said to some degree they would accept ‘a Jew as a boss’, while 2 per cent said they would not.
(2) Depending on the rounding, some of the results from 2005 stated here differ by a few per cent from those in the original 2005 report.