Poll Finds Rising Antipathy Toward Jews and Muslims in Europe
The Washington-based Pew Research Center’s global attitude survey found that 46 percent of Spanish, 36 percent of Poles and 34 percent of Russians viewed Jews unfavorably, while the same was true for 25 percent of Germans, and 20 percent of French.
The figures are all higher than in comparable Pew surveys done in recent years, the report said, and “in a number of countries the increase has been especially notable between 2006 and 2008.”
Opinions of Muslims are also worsening compared with previous years, with 52 percent in Spain, 50 percent in Germany, 46 percent in Poland and 38 percent in France having negative attitudes toward them.
Richard Wike, associate director of the attitudes project, said the poll did not explore why attitudes had changed, but other data indicate that negative attitudes toward Israel could be driving anti-Semitic feelings.
He also said concerns about extremism and immigration might be a factor in negative views toward Muslims.
Britain was the only European country without a substantial increase in anti-Semitic attitudes, the report said, with just 9 percent in that country rating Jews unfavorably. In the United States 7 percent had negative views of Jews, as did 11 percent in Australia.
But about one in four in the United States and Britain thought poorly of Muslims.
The findings were based on interviews with 24,717 people in 24 countries this year. The poll had margins of sampling error ranging from plus or minus 2 to 4 percentage points, varying by country.
The most extreme anti-Jewish feelings, the poll said, were found in predominantly Muslim nations, where favorable attitudes were only in the single digits among Turks, Egyptians, Jordanians, Lebanese, and Pakistanis.
But in many predominantly Muslim countries there has been an erosion of support since 2002 for suicide bombing and other violence against civilians in the name of Islam.
Unfavorable Views of Both Jews and Muslims Increase in Europe
Negative attitudes toward Christians in Europe are less common than negative ratings of Muslims or Jews. And views about Christians have remained largely stable in recent years, although anti-Christian sentiments have been on the rise in Spain — about one-in-four Spanish (24%) now rate Christians negatively, up from 10% in 2005. Similarly, in France 17% now hold an unfavorable view of Christians, compared with 9% in 2004.
A notable parallel between anti-Muslim and anti-Jewish opinion in Western Europe is that both sentiments are most prevalent among the same groups of people. Older people and those with less education are more anti-Semitic and anti-Muslim than are younger people or those with more education.
In most of the countries included in the survey, religion is considered a central feature of life. However, this is often less true among younger people. In many nations, including the United States, people under age 40 are less likely than others to say religion is very important to them.
And there is also a notable gender gap in many nations regarding religion’s importance. Consistently, women are more likely than men to say religion plays a very important role in their lives. Among the countries on the survey, the largest gender gap is in the United States, where 65% of women rate religion as very important, compared with only 44% of men.
Most Muslims in the nations surveyed by Pew continue to worry about the rise of Islamic extremism, both at home and abroad. Majorities in Indonesia, Pakistan, Tanzania, Lebanon, Egypt, Jordan and Nigeria say they are concerned about extremism in their own country and in other countries around the world.
Many are also concerned about growing tensions between Sunni and Shia Muslims. There is a widespread perception that Sunni-Shia tensions are not limited to Iraq and instead are a broader problem affecting the Muslim world more generally.
Large numbers of Muslims in several countries surveyed also see a struggle taking place within their countries between Islamic fundamentalists and those who want to modernize the nation. In Turkey, in particular, a large and growing majority sees such a conflict taking place, but this view also is common in Lebanon, Tanzania, Indonesia and Pakistan.
- France stands out as the most secular nation included in the survey. Only one-in-ten in that country consider religion very important in their lives and 60% say they never pray.
- While European views towards Jews have become more negative, the deepest anti-Jewish sentiments exist outside of Europe, especially in predominantly Muslim nations. The percentage of Turks, Egyptians, Jordanians, Lebanese and Pakistanis with favorable opinions of Jews is in the single digits.
- Two pillars of Islam are commonly practiced by the Muslims surveyed: prayer and fasting. Majorities in most of the eight Muslim publics included pray five times a day and fast most days of Ramadan.
- Views of Hamas tend to be negative in Lebanon, Turkey, and Egypt. Jordan is the only predominantly Muslim country surveyed in which a majority express a positive view of the militant Palestinian organization.
- Views of the militant Lebanese Shia organization Hezbollah are overwhelmingly negative in Turkey, while slim majorities in Egypt and Jordan express positive views of Hezbollah. In Lebanon itself, Hezbollah is almost unanimously popular among the country’s Shia community, but is overwhelmingly unpopular among Sunnis and Christians.
- Saudi Arabia receives positive ratings from most of the publics in the predominantly Muslim countries surveyed, although Turkey is an exception; 43% of Turks express an unfavorable view of Saudi Arabia, while just 36% hold a favorable view.