Professor Jacobson and Andrew Breitbart’s recent coverage of anti-Semitic incidents at the Occupy Wall Street protests were no surprise to me. A top notch study by political scientists Neil Malhotra and Yotam Margalit back in 2009 found that triggering anti-semitic concepts increased support for anti-business policies, and that Democrats were much more likely than Republicans to blame “the Jews” for the financial crisis.
The first finding is observational. They found that only 18% of Republicans, but 32% of Democrats, blame “the Jews” “a moderate amount” or “a great deal” for the financial crisis. When challenged, they elaborated:
Some people asked whether the difference between Republicans and Democrats is robust to the inclusion of various controls (education, region, gender, race, income, etc.). We find that the difference between Democrats and Republicans is highly robust to these controls when: (1) estimating a multivariate regression model; and (2) conditioning on these variables. That being said, the gap between partisans is definitely a correlation, and it not causal. But it is a highly robust correlation.
Translating from social scientist to layman, this means they were unable to find any alternative variables that would explain away the finding that this anti-Semitic view varies between the two political parties, although they cannot say that the partisanship itself causes anti-semitism because you never can get causation from an ordinary survey. It is fair to say that their finding shows with a rather high degree of certainty that Democrats are for some reason more likely to hold this anti-Semitic view than Republicans.
Their more interesting finding occurred via a survey experiment, which is the gold standard for survey research, and unlike regular surveys and polls, finds causation rather than correlation. In their experiment, a control group was asked to read an article about “American investor” Bernie Madoff, who scammed “educational charities,” and then asked whether or not they supported tax cuts for big business to create jobs. Two treatment groups read the same article and were asked the same question, except the article was altered to refer to Madoff as a “Jewish-American investor” in one and the charities as “Jewish educational charities” in the other. The treatment groups (especially the one that directly identified Madoff as Jewish) were significantly more likely to oppose these tax cuts, meaning that mentioning Jews in the context of financial skullduggery triggered anti-business political views.
Because the treatment and control groups were randomly assigned, and their experiences identical in every way except for reading the word “Jewish,” this survey indicates that anti-Semitic stereotypes cause anti-business political views. To further prove their point, Malhotra and Margalit show that the experiment does not produce these results when repeated with Jewish subjects, and does not affect views on unrelated matters such as middle class tax cuts and federal support for state governments.
Thus, while it may not be fair to say that anti-Semitism is the primary cause of anti-business ideology in America, scientific evidence suggests that anti-Semitism does in fact cause the sorts of views found among Occupy Wall Street protesters.
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