Joel Stein wrote an article on Los Angeles Times in which he claims:

I have never been so upset by a poll in my life. Only 22% of Americans now believe "the movie and television industries are pretty much run by Jews," down from nearly 50% in 1964. The Anti-Defamation League, which released the poll results last month, sees in these numbers a victory against stereotyping. Actually, it just shows how dumb America has gotten. Jews totally run Hollywood.

Is it true that 50% of Americans believed that "the movie and television industries are pretty much run by Jews" in 1964?

  • "Is it true that 50% of Americans believed...?" How could we possibly know? You could ask if there's any basis to make that statement, and what is such basis; but could we really know if any individual or amount of population, in any moment in history, believed something? I skeptizise that!
    – xDaizu
    Commented May 22, 2017 at 12:19
  • For those wondering, the op-ed seems to be humorous in tone, but making this particular claim seriously.
    – Golden Cuy
    Commented Nov 14, 2019 at 21:42

2 Answers 2


Contrary to another answer, the 1964 survey was not run by a special interest group. Instead, it was designed by the Survey Research Center, University of California, Berkeley and conducted by the National Opinion Research Center (NORC), University of Chicago.

The National Opinion Research Center Fiftieth Anniversary Report 1991 states:

during the 1960s NORC worked with the Survey Research Center at the University of California investigating anti- Semitism as part of its Research Program on Patterns of American Prejudice. Data from the California program were used to develop a picture of anti-Semitism in the United States, and to understand the form such prejudice took among persons of different demographic groups

The survey was published in The tenacity of prejudice: anti-Semitism in contemporary America (referenced in the above NORC report).

The survey found that 47% of non-Jews agreed with the statement "the movie and television industries are pretty much run by Jews". 21% disagreed and 32% didn't know.

In other words, the survey was not representative of all Americans, it excluded Jews.

  • 2
    Excluding Jews doesn't make the survey too far off from total population, as there aren't all that statistically many Jews in USA. 1.4% in 2001
    – user5341
    Commented Dec 16, 2016 at 17:16
  • 1
    @user5341 Pew says "surveys in the 1950s and 1960s consistently found that between 3% and 4% of American adults said their religion was Jewish" pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2013/10/02/… and of course others consider themselves Jews in the ethnic sense.
    – DavePhD
    Commented Dec 16, 2016 at 17:21
  • 5
    @DavePhD - wow, that was unexpected. But still, unless my back of the envelope math is off, 47% of 96% would make for 45.12%. Not that much of a difference from 47% as to render the results meaningfully wrong to any degree - and i'm using the worst case estimate where 100% of Jews disagreed with the statement, which isn't a given.
    – user5341
    Commented Dec 16, 2016 at 17:23
  • @user5341 right, it wouldn't change much.
    – DavePhD
    Commented Dec 16, 2016 at 17:26

Joel Stein gives a reference to his claims:

The Anti-Defamation League, which released the poll results last month

Note: "Last month" = November 2008 - this is an old claim.

Here is the press release for that poll:

When ADL conducted its first survey on anti-Semitic attitudes in 1964, nearly half of all Americans believed that the television and film industries were run by Jews.

It links to a graph to illustrate it:

Graph showing 47% agreement in 1964

The graph shows the "nearly half" corresponds to 47%.

Surveys have limited power. Surveys run by special-interest groups, which don't show error bars, should be treated carefully.

  • 4
    It's unfair to try to discredit a 1964 survey just because a 2008 graphic doesn't show the error bars. The 1964 survey was not run by a special interest group; it was run by the University of Chicago and it was designed by University of California, Berkeley. The question is about the 1964 survey.
    – DavePhD
    Commented Dec 16, 2016 at 14:31
  • @DavePhD: it's weird that the ADL explicitly claims it conducted the 1964 survey. Poor organisational memory, or did they have some other involvement?
    – Oddthinking
    Commented Dec 16, 2016 at 23:33
  • 1
    I think they did provide funding, but didn't run or design the study. The lead author was Gertrude Jaegar, a Berkeley feminist who appears to have been Christian. findagrave.com/cgi-bin/…
    – DavePhD
    Commented Dec 17, 2016 at 2:36

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