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Study: Hard-core antisemitism rare among British voters

Fewer than one in ten voters think that Jews have too much influence in Britain and two-thirds would be happy with a Jewish Prime Minister.

Monday 16 May 2016


In an survey carried out by YouGov for Professor Tim Bale of Queen Mary University of London’s School of Politics and International Relations, just seven per cent of respondents agreed with the statement that ‘Jews have too much influence in this country’, a drop of three percentage points since 2014 when the same question was last asked. The findings are released as Shami Chakrabarti prepares to lead an independent inquiry into allegations of antisemitism in the British Labour Party.

Meanwhile, 65 per cent of voters said that a Jewish Prime Minister would be as acceptable as a member of any other faith – an increase of three percentage points since 2014. In party terms Lib Dem voters are the most likely (81 per cent) to agree, followed by Labour voters (74 per cent), Tory voters (67 per cent), with UKIP voters (51 per cent) noticeably less likely to agree.
The vast majority of respondents, 83 per cent, said that knowing a party leader was Jewish would make no difference to their voting intentions. Just six per cent of voters said it would make them less likely to vote for that party – although this rises to 13 per cent among UKIP voters.

Professor Bale said: “These party differences may have something to do, at least in part, with familiarity.”

Lib Dem voters are most likely (40 per cent) to have Jewish friends, acquaintances or work colleagues – followed by Labour voters (37 per cent), Tory voters (36 per cent), and UKIP voters (24 per cent).

Age and to some extent social class difference make a difference: broadly speaking, younger people and ABC1 voters seem to be more open minded. But there also seems to be some regional variation in attitudes: Londoners seem less likely than voters living elsewhere in the UK to accept the idea of a British Jew becoming Prime Minister.

A majority, 57 per cent, of respondents living in the capital agreed that a Jewish Prime Minister would be as acceptable as a member of any other faith. But that was a lower proportion than elsewhere. Voters in the rest of southern England are the most accepting of the idea (69 per cent), followed by voters in the north (65 per cent), the Midlands and Wales (65 per cent), and Scotland (64 per cent).

The survey was last carried out in 2014, and there is some evidence that recent controversies about antisemitism in the British Labour Party may have heightened awareness of perceived discrimination. Asked about the level of prejudice against Jews in the UK, 29 per cent of all voters said there is ‘a great deal or a fair amount’ – an increase of five percentage points since 2014. While nearly one in two (48 per cent) feel that Jews face little or no discrimination, that figure is down six percentage points from when the same question was asked a year ago.

Professor Bale said: “It’s certainly possible that recent news headlines about antisemitism on the left in Britain have given voters the impression that discrimination against Jewish people is on the rise. Thankfully, however, our poll suggests the majority of voters aren’t swayed by prejudice. There are variations of course, and pockets of intolerance persist among some voters and some communities. We need more research to explain why this might be the case.”

The total sample size was 1,694 adults. Fieldwork was undertaken between 2 and 3 May 2016. The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all GB adults.

In an survey carried out by YouGov for Professor Tim Bale of Queen Mary University of London’s School of Politics and International Relations, just seven per cent of respondents agreed with the statement that ‘Jews have too much influence in this country’, a drop of three percentage points since 2014 when the same question was last asked. The findings are released as Shami Chakrabarti prepares to lead an independent inquiry into allegations of antisemitism in the British Labour Party.

Meanwhile, 65 per cent of voters said that a Jewish Prime Minister would be as acceptable as a member of any other faith – an increase of three percentage points since 2014. In party terms Lib Dem voters are the most likely (81 per cent) to agree, followed by Labour voters (74 per cent), Tory voters (67 per cent), with UKIP voters (51 per cent) noticeably less likely to agree.
The vast majority of respondents, 83 per cent, said that knowing a party leader was Jewish would make no difference to their voting intentions. Just six per cent of voters said it would make them less likely to vote for that party – although this rises to 13 per cent among UKIP voters.

Professor Bale said: “These party differences may have something to do, at least in part, with familiarity.”

Lib Dem voters are most likely (40 per cent) to have Jewish friends, acquaintances or work colleagues – followed by Labour voters (37 per cent), Tory voters (36 per cent), and UKIP voters (24 per cent).

Age and to some extent social class difference make a difference: broadly speaking, younger people and ABC1 voters seem to be more open minded. But there also seems to be some regional variation in attitudes: Londoners seem less likely than voters living elsewhere in the UK to accept the idea of a British Jew becoming Prime Minister.

A majority, 57 per cent, of respondents living in the capital agreed that a Jewish Prime Minister would be as acceptable as a member of any other faith. But that was a lower proportion than elsewhere. Voters in the rest of southern England are the most accepting of the idea (69 per cent), followed by voters in the north (65 per cent), the Midlands and Wales (65 per cent), and Scotland (64 per cent).

The survey was last carried out in 2014, and there is some evidence that recent controversies about antisemitism in the British Labour Party may have heightened awareness of perceived discrimination. Asked about the level of prejudice against Jews in the UK, 29 per cent of all voters said there is ‘a great deal or a fair amount’ – an increase of five percentage points since 2014. While nearly one in two (48 per cent) feel that Jews face little or no discrimination, that figure is down six percentage points from when the same question was asked a year ago.

Professor Bale said: “It’s certainly possible that recent news headlines about antisemitism on the left in Britain have given voters the impression that discrimination against Jewish people is on the rise. Thankfully, however, our poll suggests the majority of voters aren’t swayed by prejudice. There are variations of course, and pockets of intolerance persist among some voters and some communities. We need more research to explain why this might be the case.”

The total sample size was 1,694 adults. Fieldwork was undertaken between 2 and 3 May 2016. The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all GB adults.

For media information, contact:

Mark Byrne
Public Relations Manager
Queen Mary University of London
email: m.byrne@qmul.ac.uk

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