Anti-Semitism, Islamophobia on the rise in Europe, decline in US

WASHINGTON (IPS) - Both anti-Semitism and Islamophobia have risen in Europe over the last four years, according to a survey conducted earlier this year and released here Thursday by the Pew Research Center.

While attitudes towards Muslims are substantially more negative than those against Jews across Europe, anti-Jewish sentiment as grown steadily in five of the six countries surveyed on the question, according to the Pew Global Attitudes Project survey that was conducted last spring.

The increase in anti-Jewish feeling was particularly pronounced in Spain. In 2005, 21 percent of respondents there said they had unfavorable opinions of Jews. That percentage rose to 46 percent in 2008, just below the 52 percent of Spaniards who said they held negative views of Muslims.

“Ethnocentric attitudes are on the rise in Europe,” according to an analysis that accompanied the survey.” Growing numbers of people in several major European countries say they have an unfavorable opinion of Jews, and opinions of Muslims, which were already substantially more negative, have also grown increasingly so compared with several years ago.”

The survey found that both anti-Muslim and anti-Jewish opinion in Western Europe were most prevalent among older people, those with less education, and those who identified their political views with the right.

The poll, whose findings have been released in a series of reports over the last three months, queried respondents in six European nations — Britain, France, Germany, Poland, Russia, and Spain — as well as the United States on attitudes towards Jews and Muslims.

The poll found that, of all seven countries, the US and Britain were the least prejudiced against the two groups.

In the US, for example, only seven percent of respondents said they had negative views of Jews, down from eight percent four years ago. In Britain, anti-Semitic feeling was unchanged — nine percent of Britons said they had unfavorable views of Jews.

Anti-Muslim sentiment in the US has actually declined markedly over the same period — 31 percent of US respondents said they had negative views of Muslims in 2004; that fell to 23 percent this year. In Britain, on the other hand, Islamophobia increased over the same period from 18 percent to 23 percent.

In all of the other five countries surveyed, anti-Semitism rose over the four years. In France, anti-Jewish sentiment rose from 11 percent to 20 percent; in Germany, from 20 percent to 25 percent; in Russia, from 25 percent to 34 percent; and in Poland, from 27 percent to 36 percent, according to the survey, which also found the sharpest rise in Spain between 2005 and 2006 (from 21 percent to 40 percent).

Negative views of Muslims in the five countries were significantly more prevalent than those of Jews.

At around 50 percent, anti-Muslim feeling was most prevalent in Spain, Germany, and Poland. While Spain topped the list — 52 percent of respondents said they had negative views of Muslims — that was actually a decline from 61 percent in 2006.

In Germany, anti-Islamic feeling also fell slightly since 2006 — from 57 percent to 50 percent, while in Poland, the increase in anti-Muslim sentiment has grown steadily — from 30 percent in 2005 to 46 percent last spring. French opinion has followed a similar path. In 2004, 29 percent of respondents there said they had negative views of Muslims. By last spring, the percentage had grown to 38 percent.

In Russia, anti-Muslim sentiment actually declined over the four years — from 37 percent to 32 percent.

Among respondents in France, Germany and Spain, the survey found somewhat less prejudice among respondents younger than 50 than those who are older. Thus, 41 percent of respondents in the three countries who were under 50 years old said they had unfavorable views of Muslims, compared to 41 percent of respondents under 50 who shared those views. With respect to anti-Semitic feeling, the comparable numbers were 25 percent and 30 percent, respectively.

Education levels were even more important in the incidence of prejudice. Among those who had no university education, anti-Muslim views were held by 50 percent. By contrast, 37 percent with some university education were Islamophobic. The respective figures among university-educated respondents with anti-Semitic views were 31 percent and 20 percent.

Prejudices were stronger on the right than on the left or center. Fifty-six percent of respondents who described themselves as on the right said they had negative views of Muslims, and 34 percent said they had negative views of Jews. Forty-two percent of self-described leftists admitted to anti-Islamic views; 28 percent to anti-Semitic views.

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