An elastic view of antisemitism

The 2020 study also describes the results using an ‘elastic view’ of antisemitism. Developed by the sociologist Daniel Staetsky and applied to studies of antisemitic attitudes in Britain and Norway, the elastic view makes it possible to describe more or less coherent antisemitic attitudes and beliefs in a population in terms of their diffusion and level of intensity (see Chapters 5 and 7). The results of the present study were largely categorised using the levels of intensity proposed by Staetsky: respondents who agreed with over half the statements in an index were categorised as displaying antisemitic attitudes with a stronger intensity, and those who agreed with more than one but not more than half the statements in the index were categorised as having antisemitic attitudes with a weaker intensity. Respondents who only agreed with one statement were not categorised as antisemitic, but their answer may indicate latent antisemitic attitudes.

Here the results from the combined index are presented according to the statement questions used to examine (i) social distance, (ii) traditional and Holocaust related antisemitic beliefs (a multidimensional antisemitism index), and (iii) antisemitism related to Israel. (For methodological and other reasons, statements expressing traditional and Holocaust related antisemitism have been combined in a common index; see Chapter 5.) The summary concludes with a comparison of the results from the 2005 and 2020 studies.

Social distance

The results for social distance show that 83 per cent of the population held a favourable or (as a smaller proportion) a ‘neutral’ opinion towards having a Jew as prime minister, neighbour, boss, or family member; 2 per cent held negative attitudes with a stronger intensity (they agreed with three or four out of four statements) and another 2 per cent held negative attitudes with a weaker intensity (they agreed with two statements); and 13 per cent agreed with only one statement.

5 per cent hold antisemitic beliefs with stronger intensity

In the case of traditional and Holocaust related antisemitic ideas – the multidimensional antisemitism index – results show that 66 per cent of the population did not agree with any of the eight statements, and 5 per cent agreed with five or more statements in the index and thus displayed antisemitic attitudes with a stronger intensity. The 14 per cent who agreed with two to four statements can be said to hold antisemitic attitudes with a weaker intensity. A further 14 per cent agreed with one statement, and thus, as already noted, should not be categorised as holding antisemitic beliefs, but these results could still have relevance regarding diffusion.

Maximal diffusion

In total, 34 per cent agreed with one or more antisemitic statements. Apply the elastic view and 34 per cent represents the maximal diffusion of antisemitic ideas in the population. This does not mean that 34 per cent can be said to be antisemitic: we cannot emphasise this enough. Instead, it gives a sense of the proportion of the population where Jews and others might encounter ideas of the type examined here. It should also be stressed that not everyone who holds antisemitic beliefs will necessarily express them. Yet, equally, even individuals who agreed with only one or two antisemitic stereotypes can, by voicing them, however unknowingly, cause offense and discomfort. Estimates of the maximal diffusion of antisemitic ideas may be relevant when interpreting the results regarding Swedish Jews’ experiences and perceptions of antisemitism reported in the surveys of 2012 and 2018 (see Chapter 4).

Connections between social distance and antisemitism

Looking at social distance and its connection with traditional and Holocaust related antisemitism, the analysis suggests these two indices measure slightly different aspects of antisemitism and that relatively many of those who hold antisemitic beliefs with a stronger intensity do not feel antipathy towards Jews as individuals. At the same time, it is evident that the more respondents agreed with statements in the social distance index, the more they agreed with statements in the multidimensional antisemitism index.

Antisemitism related to Israel

Regarding antisemitism related to Israel, the results show that 77 per cent of all respondents did not agree with any of the three statements in the index, 6 per cent agreed with two or three of the statements and in that sense could be said to hold antisemitic beliefs, and 17 per cent agreed with one statement and so were not categorised as holding antisemitic opinions. (As it comprised only three statements, the results for this index are not described in terms of different levels of intensity; see Chapter 5.)

We have also analysed the extent of the connection between antisemitic attitudes related to Israel and the traditional and Holocaust related antisemitic ideas of the multidimensional antisemitism index. The results show some respondents agreed with one or more Israel-related antisemitic statements, but did not agree with any statements in the multidimensional antisemitism index; they also show, however, that the more statements respondents agreed with in the Israel-related index, the more statements they agreed with in the multidimensional index.

An elastic view on the comparison of 2020 with 2005

When an elastic view is applied to the results of the multidimensional antisemitism index and the Israel-related antisemitism index in the surveys of 2005 and 2020, it becomes apparent there was a decline in support for antisemitic attitudes and ideas. The proportion who did not agree with any antisemitic statements in either index had also increased. At the same time, the proportion with stronger antisemitic attitudes and beliefs had changed only slightly in the intervening years.