David Bernstein passes on a rather strange (unlinked) finding:

As the 1992 study showed, Americans significantly overestimate the size of the Jewish population in the U.S. About one-in-five (21%) Americans estimate that Jews comprise less than 10% of the U.S. population…. while 43% put the figure somewhere between 10% and 25%. Roughly one-in-four (23%) Americans estimate that Jews make up more than 25% of the total U.S. population. The most anti-Semitic Americans are significantly more inclined than others to overestimate the size of the Jewish population, with 37% estimating that Jews comprise more than a quarter of the total U.S. population.

Jews comprise roughly 2% of the actual population. Unless the poll was taken exclusively in Manhattan–or Hollywood–this is indeed a weird result. The only explanation I can come up with for this discrepancy is the entertainment industry, where artists and behind-the-scenes folks are disproportionately (that is, well over 2%) Jewish. For similar reasons, I’d guess people would radically overestimate the percentage of homosexuals in society.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Kevin Drum says:

    As I recall, that survey showed that people overestimated the percentage of every minority. They figured blacks were about a third of the population, hispanics about a quarter, Asians about 15%, etc.

    If you added it all up, by the way, it turned out that people estimated that the total population was about 200% the size of the total population. Bad math.

  2. James Joyner says:

    Funny. Which, again, doesn’t surprise me all that much.

  3. James Joyner says:

    These are the people who think we spend a quarter of our national budget on foreign aid, too.

  4. Deborama says:

    I don’t think the leap from Jews to homosexuals, in the entertainment industry, was very well thought out. If you had said “out and campy” homosexuals, maybe. I think people tend to underestimate the number of homosexuals in a population for the reason that homosexuals can and do hide in the population, wherever they are subject to discrimination. Evident gayness, like proud Jewishness, can be used as a career advantage in show biz and a few other realms, but in construction, banking, politics, law enforcement, clergy … I coudl go on … not to mention high school and the military, one is a definite disadvantage, while the other can go either way or be neutral. Then too, no one that I know of was ever expelled from their family for being Jewish.

  5. James Joyner says:


    I’m not equating the two. The best estimates we have is that homosexuals are about 1% of the population. They are far more common than that on prime time television.