An explosion of hate across the United States drove hate crimes up last year

A new study offers more proof that Trump's rise coincided with a staggering uptick in violence towards marginalized groups.

In this April 23, 2016 file photo, members of the Ku Klux Klan participate in cross and swastika burnings after a "white pride" rally in rural Paulding County near Cedar Town, Ga.  CREDIT: AP Photo/Mike Stewart
In this April 23, 2016 file photo, members of the Ku Klux Klan participate in cross and swastika burnings after a "white pride" rally in rural Paulding County near Cedar Town, Ga. CREDIT: AP Photo/Mike Stewart

Hate crimes across the United States rose between 2015 and 2016, marking the first time in over a decade that incidents of such violence increased and adding further proof that the election of President Donald Trump has spurred backlash against marginalized communities.

According to new data the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism at California State University, San Bernardino provided to HuffPost, hate crimes rose approximately 5 percent last year. The study, from Professor Brian Levin, is seemingly the most comprehensive predictor to date of official FBI hate crime statistics. Composed of two separate data sets, the study looks at hate crimes reported to law enforcement across 31 cities and counties, as well as 13 states. Across those cities and counties, 2,101 hate crimes were reported, with 3,887 reported across states.

That’s a dramatic rise, Levin told HuffPost.

“If these moderate overall increases of 5 percent hold nationally for 2016, this will be the first time since 2004 that the nation has experienced consecutive annual increases in hate crime,” he said.


According to the study, of the five largest cities in the United States, only Houston (the nation’s most diverse city) avoided a double digit increase in violence directed at minorities in 2016. Washington, D.C. saw a staggering 62 percent rise, while Philadelphia topped out at 50 percent. Numbers were also high in New York City (24 percent), Chicago (20 percent), and Los Angeles (15 percent), pointing at a disconcerting uptick in hate crimes.

The study estimates approximately 6,069 to 6,245 hate crimes will be listed in the FBI’s 2016 Unified Crime Report — the most since 2012. And while Levin’s study relies on data from law enforcement (which fails to reflect unreported incidents), the numbers seem to corroborate tracking carried out by numerous publications and organizations in the time following Trump’s rise and into his presidency.

Hate tracking conducted by ThinkProgress from November 2016 to February 2017 found a staggering uptick in violence directed at Black and Latinx communities, as well as Jews, Muslims, queer people, gender minorities, and immigrants. While our bar for inclusion was high (actions had to be taken against specific individuals or communities, and corroborated by ThinkProgress, rather than, for example, reports of graffiti), we documented approximately 261 incidents of hate in that short period of time. (Similar investigations by organizations like the Southern Poverty Law Center yielded far higher numbers.)

Much of the rise in violence has been directly linked to Trump, who ran on a campaign targeting Latinx and Muslim communities, as well as an “America First” approach popular with white nationalists. Trump’s Islamophobia has been especially well-documented, as well as his silence on hate crimes targeting Muslims. In May, the president waited several days to condemn the murder of two men in Portland, Oregon, who died after attempting to help two women targeted by a white man screaming slurs. He later remained silent following the August bombing of a mosque in Minnesota.


Muslims aren’t the only ones who have suffered because of Trump’s Islamophobia. As ThinkProgress reported in April, an uptick in violence against people perceived as Muslim has severely impacted South Asians in the United States, regardless of faith. Other communities are also facing an onslaught of hate. While the transgender community has always occupied a precarious space, hate crimes against trans women in particular have been reported in large numbers across the country — 20 trans people have been killed in 2017 already, many of them Black trans women. Jews are also growing increasingly concerned; 2016 marked a sharp rise in anti-Semitic attacks, and 2017 is on track to be even worse, something Trump has downplayed.

Levin’s study is only the latest to link such trends to Trump, with an emphasis on the time immediately surrounding his election.

“What is so unusual about 2016 ― with the exception of the Midwest ― and particularly among the largest jurisdictions with the best data, was a clear and dramatic spike for the election period that was unlike anything I can recall in my professional career,” Levin said.

He noted that key factors driving the spike in hate crimes include “particularly sharp and widespread bigotry against particular communities like [transgender people] and Muslims” in addition to the “emboldenment and mainstreaming of white nationalism” that has come in the time since Trump’s rise. Levin also pointed to policy decisions, like the Muslim ban, which targets citizens from six majority Muslim countries and all refugees, as another factor driving element in the uptick.

While 2016 saw a sharp rise in hate, Levin also cautioned that 2017 is on track to be as bad — if not worse. At least 526 hate crimes have been reported in the six largest U.S. cities this year, a 22 percent rise from 2016. Crimes targeting Jews, Muslims, and Black communities have spurred a 28 percent increase in New York City alone, Levin’s research indicated.