Whether we look at the left or the right of the political spectrum, we find people who are antisemitic and people who aren’t. Our findings help us to get beyond the question of whether antisemitism is more of a problem on the right or on the left. What we found is that antisemitic views are more likely among conspiracy theorists, revolutionaries, and people who see dictatorship as an acceptable form of government.Dr Daniel Allington, Department of Digital Humanities
09 January 2024
Study reveals people most likely to hold antisemitic views
People who believe in conspiracy theories are more likely to have antisemitic opinions than non-believers, new research shows.
Dr Daniel Allington, Reader in Social Analytics at King's has led the most comprehensive study to date examining the opinions of people with antisemitic views. The study is published in Nature’s Humanities and Social Sciences Communications journal.
Researchers also found antisemitic views to be more prevalent among people who consider it justifiable to take extreme authoritarian action against political opponents, and people who want to overthrow social order.
The findings suggest that antisemitism may be less closely linked to political beliefs than has previously been implied, and more closely linked to opinions and views on other topics such as religion, ethnic nationalism, and conspiracy theories.
Researchers from King’s College London, Goldsmiths, University of London, and Arden University conducted two surveys of UK-resident adults, the first with 809 participants recruited through crowdsourcing platform Prolific, and the second with 1,853 participants sampled by YouGov.
“These findings suggest a convergence. On the one hand, antisemites who believe the democratic state to be a trick played on ‘the people’ by ‘the Jews’ might feel justified in tearing it down and taking repressive action against those responsible. On the other hand, political movements that embrace conspiracy fantasies may feel justified in repressing political opponents, are not afraid to overthrow the democratic state, and are also likely to be open to antisemitism.” – Co-author Dr David Hirsh, Senior Lecturer in Sociology at Goldsmiths, University of London.
“This research paves the way for further research on left- and right-wing forms of authoritarianism to provide a more balanced debate within the literature on prejudice.” – Co-author Dr Louise Katz, Senior Lecturer and Psychology Programme Coordinator at Xenophon College London (formerly of Arden University).
Because of the link to Adolf Hitler and the Nazis during World War II, antisemitism has previously been assumed to be a right wing phenomenon. However, it has always existed across both sides of the political spectrum, as previous scholarship has shown. More recently, the Equality and Human Rights Commission found that the Labour Party committed unlawful acts in relation to antisemitism during the period of Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership, highlighting the problem of antisemitism on the contemporary political left.
The major finding of both studies is that antisemitism is predicted by a conspiratorial understanding of the world as it is, by openness to totalitarian rule, and, above all, by a desire for revolution.
See here for the full paper, as published in Nature’s Humanities and Social Sciences Communications: ‘Antisemitism is predicted by anti-hierarchical aggression, totalitarianism, and belief in malevolent global conspiracies’.
The research was funded by Campaign Against Antisemitism and the Alfred Landecker Foundation.
To understand the psychological basis of antisemitism, the researchers, conducted a series of surveys with UK adults to examine their opinions and thoughts towards Jewish people and also towards the world’s only Jewish state.
Their research provides strong evidence in support of the view that people with antisemitic attitudes towards Israel and its supporters are more likely to have antisemitic attitudes towards British Jews. This is especially important in the light of events following the 7 October 2023 massacre committed by Hamas in Southern Israel: antisemitic crime has rocketed in the UK, and the government has expressed concern about high rates of antisemitic incidents in schools.