'Passion' Film Lessens Hostility Towards Jews, Poll Shows

By Melanie Hunter
CNSNews.com Deputy Managing Editor
March 15, 2004

(CNSNews.com) - Mel Gibson's film "The Passion of the Christ" is lessening hostility towards Jews contrary to what the film's Jewish critics predicted, a new poll shows. The survey, conducted by the Institute for Jewish and Community Research, shows 24 percent of Americans familiar with the film say that Jews alive at the time of Christ's crucifixion were not responsible for it. Less than two percent of Americans surveyed blame Jews for the crucifixion today.

"While the film may have a different impact elsewhere in the world, so far the Passion of the Christ is not producing any significant anti-Jewish backlash," said Dr. Gary Tobin, president of ICJR.

"The film and perhaps even more, the discussions about the film, are having something of a positive effect, which is good news. Some Jewish and Christian leaders have been understandably worried that the film might unleash a wave of hostility toward Jews and even erode the constructive effects of Vatican II," he said.

"But this does no appear to be happening. Their concern, however, was not unfounded given the rise of anti-Semitism around the world, and the central theme of Christ killing in anti-Jewish prejudice," said Tobin.

Sixty-four percent of respondents said the film provides an accurate and thorough portrayal of the meaning of the life of Jesus, compared to 13 percent who disagreed.

Among those who saw the film or are familiar with it, most (83 percent) said the film had no impact on the extent to which they feel contemporary Jews are to blame, compared to two percent who said the film made them more likely to hold Jews responsible, and nine percent who said it made them less likely to hold today's Jews responsible.

Of the 146 respondents who saw the film, 80 percent said the film had no impact, five percent said it made them more likely to hold Jews responsible, and 12 percent said the film made them less likely to hold today's Jews responsible.

"The questions raised about the anti-Jewish images in the movie helped bring the question of the role of Jews in the death of Christ out in the open. It is better to have dialogue and honest discussion and trust that the bond between Christians and Jews in America is strong," said Tobin.

The poll was conducted nationwide between 1,003 randomly selected adults, on March 5-9. Percentage estimates based on the full sample had an error rate of plus or minus 3.1 percentage points. For estimates based on those who saw the film or are familiar with it, the error rate was plus or minus 3.7 points.

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