Some Question Methodology in ADL Study of Global Anti-Semitism

Does Answering 'Probably' Make 1 Billion Jew Haters?

getty images

By Michael Kaplan

Published May 14, 2014.
  • Print
  • Share Share

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.”


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • Happy birthday to the Boy Who Lived! July 31 marks the day that Harry Potter — and his creator, J.K. Rowling — first entered the world. Harry is a loyal Gryffindorian, a matchless wizard, a native Parseltongue speaker, and…a Jew?
  • "Orwell would side with Israel for building a flourishing democracy, rather than Hamas, which imposed a floundering dictatorship. He would applaud the IDF, which warns civilians before bombing them in a justified war, not Hamas terrorists who cower behind their own civilians, target neighboring civilians, and planned to swarm civilian settlements on the Jewish New Year." Read Gil Troy's response to Daniel May's opinion piece:
  • "My dear Penelope, when you accuse Israel of committing 'genocide,' do you actually know what you are talking about?"
  • What's for #Shabbat dinner? Try Molly Yeh's coconut quinoa with dates and nuts. Recipe here:
  • Can animals suffer from PTSD?
  • Is anti-Zionism the new anti-Semitism?
  • "I thought I was the only Jew on a Harley Davidson, but I was wrong." — Gil Paul, member of the Hillel's Angels. http://jd.fo/g4cjH
  • “This is a dangerous region, even for people who don’t live there and say, merely express the mildest of concern about the humanitarian tragedy of civilians who have nothing to do with the warring factions, only to catch a rash of *** (bleeped) from everyone who went to your bar mitzvah! Statute of limitations! Look, a $50 savings bond does not buy you a lifetime of criticism.”
  • That sound you hear? That's your childhood going up in smoke.
  • "My husband has been offered a terrific new job in a decent-sized Midwestern city. This is mostly great, except for the fact that we will have to leave our beloved NYC, where one can feel Jewish without trying very hard. He is half-Jewish and was raised with a fair amount of Judaism and respect for our tradition though ultimately he doesn’t feel Jewish in that Larry David sort of way like I do. So, he thinks I am nuts for hesitating to move to this new essentially Jew-less city. Oh, did I mention I am pregnant? Seesaw, this concern of mine is real, right? There is something to being surrounded by Jews, no? What should we do?"
  • "Orwell described the cliches of politics as 'packets of aspirin ready at the elbow.' Israel's 'right to defense' is a harder narcotic."
  • From Gene Simmons to Pink — Meet the Jews who rock:
  • The images, which have since been deleted, were captioned: “Israel is the last frontier of the free world."
  • As J Street backs Israel's operation in Gaza, does it risk losing grassroots support?
  • What Thomas Aquinas might say about #Hamas' tunnels:
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.