Attitudes and background factors

An in-depth investigation using a multiple regression analysis of the 2020 survey results showed that demographic background factors such as gender, age, education, and place of birth are associated with antisemitism. As previous studies have shown, older age is related to more negative attitudes, while higher levels of education correlate with a reduction in antisemitic attitudes and ideas. Looking at gender, the tendency is for traditional and Holocaust related antisemitic beliefs to be slightly more prevalent among men, whereas the same is true for Israel-related antisemitic attitudes and notions among women. Where people live in Sweden has little significance for their propensity to hold antisemitic attitudes. Having a Jewish friend, though, correlates with holding fewer antisemitic attitudes.

Some background factors were evident in the multivariate analysis, prompting a discussion of possible explanations (see also Chapter 9). Of the individual characteristics, older age is associated with a higher prevalence of antisemitism. The fact that negative attitudes towards minorities tend to be more prevalent among people in older age categories than younger people has sometimes been explained as a generation gap – times change, and younger people are generally more positive towards other groups in society than older generations.

The greater prevalence of antisemitic attitudes found among respondents born outside the Nordic region (the multidimensional index), and even more so among those born outside Europe (all indices) – a large proportion of whom came from the Middle East – may well reflect the adoption of antisemitic attitudes and ideas found in their countries of birth. It should be noted that antisemitism is comparatively more widespread and politically legitimate in countries in the Middle East and in some central and eastern European countries (see Chapter 4). It goes some way in explaining the greater prevalence of antisemitic attitudes found among respondents with Muslim affiliation, because a significant proportion of people in this category have a migration background in the Middle East. Factors such as exposure to negative attitudes, discrimination, and social and economic segregation in Swedish society could also increase the propensity to adopt antisemitic ideas, pointing out Jews as having caused real or perceived injustices. Furthermore, antisemitic thinking – here as in other contexts – may have been nourished by the Israeli–Palestinian conflict.

The results for people born in Sweden to at least one parent born abroad, however, do not differ from those for people born in Sweden to two Swedish-born parents. One probable explanation is that they fall into the younger age category. It would seem the socialisation process does not differ between the categories.

Respondents’ willingness to trust other people or public institutions such as Parliament, the government, and the police, along with their attitudes to immigration and sexism, is significant for their propensity to hold antisemitic attitudes and beliefs: the greater the trust, the lower the prevalence of antisemitic attitudes, while sexism and negative attitudes towards immigrants correlated with a higher prevalence of antisemitism. These factors also correlated with party political sympathies. The results show those who sympathise with the Sweden Democrats have less trust in other people and in institutions, are more negative towards immigration and rank higher on the sexism index. This echoes the findings of previous studies of Sweden Democrat voters, who in comparison with other groups of voters were found to have a higher prevalence of xenophobic attitudes (see Chapter 9). The present analysis also found a higher prevalence of antisemitic attitudes among respondents who sympathised with the Sweden Democrats, in line with what studies in other European countries have shown for antisemitic attitudes among sections of the electorate who sympathise with right-wing populist and nationalist parties. Studies in other European countries indicate that antisemitic attitudes are linked to xenophobic and sexist attitudes. In light of previous research, it is not unreasonable to suggest a connection exists between those attitudes and the antisemitic beliefs the present study found among groups who sympathise with the Sweden Democrats.

An in-depth analysis shows that the fall in support for attitudes charted in the multidimensional and Israel-related antisemitism indices between 2005 and 2020 was statistically significant. For traditional and Holocaust related antisemitic beliefs (the multidimensional antisemitic index) the decrease was almost 27 per cent; for Israel-related antisemitic ideas it was 13 per cent.