The Volokh Conspiracy

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Volokh Conspiracy

Life Imitates the Volokh Conspiracy

Donald Trump says exactly the wrong thing in response to a question about anti-Semitism, mainstream Jew-haters Jew-hate, and a new study shows that bigotry has declined under Trump.


On Monday I wrote, "It doesn't help that neither the mainstream American right or left exhibits much sensitivity to Jewish concerns about anti-Semitism. On the right, the common response is that "we're pro-Israel, what do you want from us?" Yesterday, an NBC reporter, citing the bogus "57 percent increase in anti-Semitic incidents" statistic, asked Trump about anti-Semtism in the U.S. Trump responded by talking about his pro-Israel policies.

In the same Monday post, I also noted that anti-Semites, while not necessarily more numerous, have become more active, more vocal, and, importantly, less subject to gatekeeping by the mainstream. Case in point: Women's March leader and leading progressive activist Linda Sarsour. After expressing faux concern over anti-Semitism after Pittsburgh, she proceeded to blame the Democrats somewhat disappointing results Tuesday on "people who will support refugees and criminal justice reform then support for example the state of Israel." Gee, I wonder which people she might be referring to? (And she's not too bright if she think that supporting Israel is the opposite of supporting refugees, given that Israel's population is primarly made of refugees and their descendants.)

Meanwhile, much to the consternation of many progressive readers, I keep insisting on empirical evidence before I conclude that there has been a significant increase in bigotry in general, or hostility to Jews in particular, since Trump became president. On Tuesday, Dan Hopkins from Blog 538 wrote that he is overseeing a study that finds that prejudice has actually decreased under Trump:

As I mentioned earlier, I just finished overseeing the thirteenth wave of a panel survey of American adults. And given President Trump's use of racially charged rhetoric, you might expect that white Americans' prejudice has risen since he won the presidency in late 2016. But in fact, the opposite is the case: self-reported prejudice is actually down among both white Democrats and white Republicans in the past two years.

The key to understanding the role of prejudice in contemporary politics is that Trump didn't amplify it, he instead activated it: Trump's rise led prejudice to be more integrated with voter choice. So prejudice has become more predictive of how white Americans vote, even if it's also been on the decline.