Who are the Least and Most Antisemitic Americans by Ideology?

I happened across this very interesting and provocative paper by Fordham political scientist Jeffrey Cohen.

Cohen starts by noting the two dominant theories of antisemitism and poltiical ideology in the United States. One theory holds that antisemitism can be found on the extreme right and the extreme left. A second holds that people on the left are least antisemitic, and are more likely to be antisemitic the further right one goes.

Cohen has a third theory. I can’t do justice to his methodology in a short blog post, but essentially he criticizes prior researchers for relying on self-declared political ideology, and for excluded “don’t knows” from their analysis.

The uphot is that the least antisemitic Americans are mainstream liberals and conservatives. The most antisemitic are the extreme left, the extreme right, as one of the theories noted above suggests, but also low information voters, who skew survey results by often self-identifying as “moderate.”

Cohen’s explanation for these results is interesting. He argues that the mainstream elite in the US has been philo-semitic since the 1950s. People who have mainstream political views and take their cues from mainstream sources follow that mainstream consensus. But those who take their cues and get their news elsewhere are, obviously, less influenced by this consensus and thus much more likely to hold antisemitic views. This includes far leftists and far rightists, but also, crucially, people of inchoate ideology who are alienated from the mainstream.

Cohen doesn’t get into this, but the upshot isn’t a happy one for American Jews. Increasing numbers of Americans don’t trust the “establishment” and take their cues and get their news from extremists or demagogues just looking for clicks. Consider how many young people rely on TikTok, of all things, for information. This helps explain the rise in antisemitism in recent years. It also helps explains why so many Jews were intuitively uncomfortable with Trump and his blowing up of the Republican mainstream, which has indeed helped cause a rise in antisemitic nonsense proliferating on the right (I’m looking at you Candace Owens). It’s also why Biden’s failure to articulate and implement a defense of the Democratic mainstream from the far left has left many Jews–especially many Jewish liberals who find themselves under attack in Progressive circles that seek to exclude “Zionists”–extremely uneasy.

I suspect, though, that Trump and Biden are more symptoms than causes. The establishment, often (but not always) for good reasons, lost the faith of large swathes of the American public. And it’s not clear what the “mainstream” is anymore in the current media environment. NPR, for example, once an exemplar of mainstream liberalism, has taken a hard turn to the left since 2016 and especially 2020. Meanwhile, social media has allowed the media environment to fracture such that successful media outlets generally are ones that appeal to people’s pre-existing prejudices rather than challenging them. Further evidence, I suppose, for Frankin Foer’s thesis that the golden age of American Jews is ending.