Global Attitudes Poll Finds Negative Views Based on Religion

Ethnocentric attitudes are on the rise in Europe, according to the Pew Research Center's Pew Global Attitudes Project. Growing numbers of people in several major European countries say they have an unfavorable opinion of Jews, and opinions of Muslims also are more negative than they were several years ago.

A spring 2008 survey by the Pew Global Attitudes Project finds 46% of the Spanish rating Jews unfavorably. More than a third of Russians (34%) and Poles (36%) echo this view. Somewhat fewer, but still significant numbers of the Germans (25%) and French (20%) interviewed also express negative opinions of Jews. These percentages are all higher than obtained in comparable Pew surveys taken in recent years. In a number of countries, the increase has been especially notable between 2006 and 2008.

Great Britain stands out as the only European country included in the survey where there has not been a substantial increase in anti-Semitic attitudes. Just 9% of the British rate Jews unfavorably, which is largely unchanged from recent years. And relatively small percentages in both Australia (11%) and the United States (7%) continue to view Jews unfavorably.

Opinions about Muslims in almost all of these countries are considerably more negative than are views of Jews. Fully half of Spanish (52%) and German respondents (50%) rate Muslims unfavorably. Opinions about Muslims are somewhat less negative in Poland (46%) and considerably less negative in France (38%). About one-in-four in Britain and the United States (23% each) also voice unfavorable views of Muslims. Overall, there is a clear relationship between anti-Jewish and anti-Muslim attitudes: publics that view Jews unfavorably also tend to see Muslims in a negative light.

The trend in negative views toward Muslims in Europe has occurred over a longer period of time than growing anti-Jewish sentiment. Most of the upswing took place between 2004 and 2006, and there has even been a slight decrease in some countries since 2006.

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. Looking at combined data from France, Germany and Spain - the three Western European countries where unfavorable opinions of Jews are most common - people ages 50 and older express more negative views of both Jews and Muslims than do those younger than 50. Similarly, Europeans who have not attended college are consistently more likely than those who have to hold unfavorable opinions of both groups.

There are some political parallels too. Anti-Muslim and anti-Jewish opinions are most prevalent among Europeans on the political right. For example, among respondents from France, Germany and Spain who place themselves on the political right, 56% express a negative view of Muslims, compared with 42% of those on the left and 45% of those in the center. Similarly, 34% of people on the political right have a negative opinion of Jews, compared with 28% of those on the left and 26% of centrists.

These are among the latest findings from the 2008 Pew Global Attitudes survey. The current report focuses on findings related to religion, and several sections are devoted specifically to issues among Muslim publics. The polling was conducted March-April 2008 in 24 countries from regions throughout the world.

Read the full report Unfavorable Views of Both Jews and Muslims Increase in Europe on the Pew Global Attitudes Project Web site.

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