Jews blamed more for death of Christ after Passion
The percentage of Americans who say Jews were responsible for Christ's death is rising according to a poll taken since the release of Mel Gibson's film "The Passion of the Christ."
The poll released by the Pew Research Center in Washington is the first statistical evidence that the film's box-office success may be associated with an increase in anti-Jewish feeling, although social scientists cautioned that cause and effect are not clear.
As Christians prepare to celebrate Easter week and the Jewish holiday of Passover also approaches, the poll could sharpen the focus on what some perceive as the film's anti-Semitism.
Some say the film unfairly portrays the role of Jews in Jesus' death, while Gibson and others insist the film is not anti-Semitic and is faithful to Gospel accounts. A judge in France also ruled that the biblical text was not manipulated in the film but a catholic Bishop suggesting that it presented an "incomplete theological picture".
In a random telephone survey of 1,703 adults, 26 percent said Jews were responsible for Christ's death, up from 19 percent in an ABC News poll that asked the same question in 1997.
The increase was especially pronounced among two groups. The portion of people younger than 30 who say Jews were responsible for killing Jesus has approximately tripled, from 10 percent in 1997 to 34 percent today. The portion of African Americans who hold that view doubled, from 21 percent to 42 percent.
The Pew poll found a statistical link between Gibson's film and belief that Jews were responsible for the death of Jesus. But the correlation is not simply that a relatively large proportion of those who have seen the film hold Jews responsible. That view is also somewhat more common among those who plan to see the film than in the general public.
Researchers therefore say that it is unclear whether the change in attitudes is down to the film or the publicity surrounding it.
While attitudes toward Jewish responsibility are changing, the Pew poll found that Americans' views of the Crucifixion generally are not. Forty percent say the Bible is the literal word of God, about the same proportion as in 1996. Ninety-two percent believe that Jesus died on the cross, and 83 percent believe that Jesus rose from the dead - both essentially unchanged since 1997.
A poll last week suggested that people in the US are reading the Bible more as a result of the film. It also said 75% of people believe that the film was "very close" to the Bible's account of Jesus' death. 15 percent responded "somewhat close" and five percent answered "not close at all."