Anti-Semitism and the Economic Crisis

SotN_BR34.3_graphic Neil Malhotra and Yotam Margalit in Boston Review:

The media coverage of the Bernard Madoff scandal made extensive reference to Madoff’s ethnic and religious background and his prominent role in the Jewish community. Because the scandal broke at a time of great public outcry against financial institutions, some, including Brad Greenberg in The Christian Science Monitor and Mark Seal in Vanity Fair, have reported on its potential to generate a wave of anti-Semitism.

This concern makes good sense. In complex situations such as the current financial crisis, where the vast majority of us lack the relevant expertise and information, biases and prejudices may play a significant role in shaping public attitudes. To evaluate just how large a role, we conducted a study (part of a larger survey of 2,768 American adults) in which we explored people’s responses to the economic collapse and tried to determine how anti-Semitic sentiments might relate to the ongoing financial crisis.

In order to assess explicit prejudice toward Jews, we directly asked respondents “How much to blame were the Jews for the financial crisis?”