Conspiracy myths and Anti-Semitism are closely related

As in 2018, National Council President Wolfgang Sobotka had IFES and DEMOX conduct a study on anti-Semitism in 2020. For this purpose, 2,000 people across Austria were surveyed by telephone or online. According to the results, anti-Semitism decreased compared to 2018 – however, as Sobotka, but also Eva Zeglovits (IFES) and Thomas Stern (Braintrust) emphasized in a press conference on Friday, the results of the two studies are not comparable due to the general conditions (pandemic situation, physical attack on Elie Rosen, president of the Jewish Community Graz, in summer and attack in Vienna in and around Seitenstettengasse in early November). Sobotka emphasized that this could also be a matter of socially desired response behavior. It will only be possible to establish a development in a long-term comparison. However, the study did reveal one clear finding: there is a close connection between conspiracy myths and anti-Semitism.

The study distinguishes between affective anti-Semitism and pseudo-rational anti-Semitism. According to the study, affective anti-Semitism is a deep-seated emotional aversion to Jews. The resentment would come from the gut, not the head. Pseudo-rational anti-Semitism manifests itself in the attempt to substantiate anti-Semitic claims and to provide supposedly rational justification. Behind this are traditional anti-Semitic resentments and racist attributions. A third category of anti-Semitism is actually not a category at all: non-anti-Semitism is a basic attitude that expresses an unbiased and open attitude toward Jews – “it is therefore not anti-Semitism – but also not philo-Semitism, i.e. exaggerated appreciation,” the study states.

The presented study on anti-Semitism

Acht Prozent der Befragten hätten 2020 affektiven Antisemitismus gezeigt (gegenüber 12 Prozent 2018). 23 Prozent hätten pseudorationalen Antisemitismus an den Tag gelegt (gegenüber 34 Prozent 2018). Dafür sei der Anteil von Menschen, mit Haltungen, die in die Kategorie Non-Antisemitismus fallen, von 49 Prozent 2018 auf 56 Prozent 2020 gestiegen, führte Stern aus. Ob sich hier bereits die aktive Arbeit der Regierung und des Parlaments niederschlage, ist für Sobotka nicht klar: es seien eben die Rahmenbedingungen nicht vergleichbar. Zeglovits gab zu bedenken, dass die Umfrage nach dem Terroranschlag in Wien durchgeführt worden sei. „Das hinterlässt Spuren bei den Menschen und führt auch dazu, dass die Diskussion anders geführt wird.“ Wie nachhaltig diese Ergebnisse seien, könne daher erst zukünftige Forschung zeigen.

Welche Einstellungen aber hat jemand, der affektiven Antisemitismus zeigt? Hier wurde zum Beispiel diese Aussage formuliert und um eine Einschätzung gebeten: „Von einem Juden kann man nicht erwarten, dass er anständig ist.“ Dem stimmte ein Prozent der Befragten voll und ganz zu, weitere fünf Prozent meinten, das treffe eher schon zu. Der Aussage „Es ist nicht nur Zufall, dass die Juden in ihrer Geschichte so oft verfolgt wurden, zumindest zum Teil sind sie selbst schuld daran“ stimmten zwei Prozent voll und zehn Prozent eher schon zu.

From left: Head of study IFES Eva Zeglovits, President of the National Council Wolfgang Sobotka (ÖVP), study coordinator Braintrust Thomas Stern

Pseudorationaler Antisemitismus zeigt sich beispielsweise in der Aussage „Die meisten Juden sind außergewöhnlich intelligent und wohlhabend“. Hier stimmen fünf Prozent der Befragten ganz und 26 Prozent eher schon zu. Vier Prozent meinten „Die Juden beherrschen die internationale Geschäftswelt“, weitere 22 Prozent meinen auch, dass das eher zutrifft.

Those who answer this question in the affirmative are not averse to conspiracy myths. The study authors took a closer look at the connection between conspiracy myths and anti-Semitism for 2020, including media behavior. According to the findings, 32 percent of respondents had a low propensity for conspiracies, 41 percent had a medium propensity and 13 percent had a high propensity, Stern said. And among those 13 percent, anti-Semitism was then more prevalent, he said.

For example, the statement that there is a powerful and influential elite that is using the pandemic to expand wealth and political influence, citing Soros, Zuckerberg and Rothschild as examples, was affirmed by 59 percent of respondents with a high propensity for conspiracy myths, he said. “This pattern runs throughout the survey. People with a high propensity for conspiracy myths are significantly more anti-Semitic than the rest of the population,” Stern said.

Zeglovits also emphasized on media behavior: those who consume traditional media (newspapers, TV, radio, but also their websites or appearances on social media) are less anti-Semitic than those who trust the information provided by individuals (influencers) on media such as Youtube or TikTok. Here, the important filtering function of traditional media also becomes visible. Although these influencers only reach a minority, this minority then exhibits above-average anti-Semitic attitudes. But there are other factors as well: anti-Semitic attitudes are rarer in the younger population than in the older population, and the higher the level of formal education, the rarer the anti-Semitic attitudes (or rather, the answers are given in this direction, but whether this corresponds to a desired response behavior or to the actual attitude cannot be answered clearly, according to Sobotka).

“Our goal is to monitor anti-Semitism in Austria in a sustainable scientific manner and also to place it in the context of current developments,” said the President of the National Council.

For this reason, the aspect of conspiracy theories surrounding the Corona pandemic, which are also evident, for example, in the demonstrations against the measures to contain the pandemic, has now also been included.

As in 2018, smaller samples of 300 people each were also surveyed, on the one hand, people with “migration background Turkey” and, on the other hand, people with “migration background in an Arabic-speaking country”. Here, however, there will first be a dialog process with representatives of these groups before these results are presented in the fall of 2021.

The detailed results of the study are available here: