Some Question Methodology in ADL Study of Global Anti-Semitism

Does Answering 'Probably' Make 1 Billion Jew Haters?

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By Michael Kaplan

Published May 14, 2014.
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At first glance, it might be one of the most jarring studies of the year. A report published yesterday by the Anti-Defamation League has found that a good portion of the world’s population — about 1 billion people — harbor anti-Semitic attitudes.

The wide-reaching survey polled 53,100 adults from more than 100 countries. Those who responded affirmatively to more than 5 of the 11 questions qualified as harboring “anti-Semitic attitudes.”

Among some of the survey’s most troubling findings: about 35% of the world has never heard of the Holocaust, about 41% of respondents believe that Jews are more loyal to Israel than their own country and almost half of the world’s Muslims qualified as anti-Semitic per ADL standards.

While undoubtedly some of the findings are troubling, don’t get too worked up over the study just yet.

While some websites, like Tablet, have branded the findings as “jaw-dropping,” others are questioning the survey’s methodology. Can global anti-Semitic trends really be measured by a few simple yes or no questions?

In an article in New York Magazine titled The ADL’s Flawed Anti-Semitism Survey, Jeni Kubota, a researcher of stereotypes and prejudices at NYU, says that polling usually allows for a range of responses so as to allow for more nuanced views of respondents’ beliefs. She argues that the survey’s results are actually hard to interpret. “[A]n individual might STRONGLY support two of these statements. Would a score of 2 out of 11 mean that the individual was not anti-Semitic? I would argue no.”

A Harvard professor quoted in the same article notes that someone might respond affirmatively to five questions would not be considered anti-Semitic, while someone who responds affirmatively to six would be branded as such.

ADL responded by noting that the methodology is a way of being “extra cautious” so as to allow for consistency in such a large study spanning so many cultures and regions, according to the article.

But Jesse Singal, the NYMag writer, concludes: “Consistency and cautiousness are good. But discriminatory beliefs are pretty complicated, and something just doesn’t sit right about a scoring system in which one person is labeled an anti-Semite and another isn’t based on a one-question difference in their responses to a survey.”


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