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Examining the Relationship between the Presence of Hate Groups and the Presence of Violent Far-Right Perpetrators at the County Level


Examining the Relationship between the Presence of Hate Groups and the Presence of Violent Far-Right Perpetrators at the County Level

Abstract: 

This report examines the relationship between the presence of hate groups in a county and the presence of violent far-right perpetrators (VFRP) of ideologically motivated homicide attacks in that county. We compiled data on the number of white and black hate groups within each U.S. county and analyzed the relationship between the number of hate groups within a county and the odds that a known VFRP resided in the county, controlling for other key variables. 

The key outcome variable for this study was whether a county had at least one violent far-right perpetrator (VFRP) in residence.  We identified 246 suspects that were involved in 126 far-right ideologically motivated homicides between 1990 and 2008.  The suspects resided in 94 U.S. counties.  We used the Southern Poverty Law Center’s (SPLC) Annual Hate Crime Listing Reports to identify the number of black and white hate-groups in a county. The SPLC reports included 5,420 groups located within 3,107 US counties.  We also investigated variables that prior research has found to be related to ideological violence as well as general demographic variables, including socioeconomic variables, social disorganization variables, and a measure of social vulnerability. 

We present the results from three types of analysis.  First, we provide maps that depict the clustering of VFRPs and demonstrate that, while most U.S. counties did not have a VFRP, there were clusters in California, Florida, Washington State and Oregon.  These clusters overlapped with the presence of white and black hate groups.   Second, we examine the correlations between county-level data on the presence of at least one VFRP, the number of white and black hate groups present, and the control variables.  There are large correlations between size of a county’s population, the total number of white hate groups, the total number of black hate groups and the presence of a VFRP.   Third, we present models using multivariate logistic regression.  Importantly, as the number of white hate groups increase in a county, the odds that a VFRP resides in a county increases.  The number of black hate groups is not significantly related to the odds that a VFRP resided in a county.  Other variables of significance include presence of Muslims in a county, county population, and population turnover. 

Although it might have been expected that the number of white hate groups would be a significant predictor of the presence of a VFRP in the county, it is important to have this assumption empirically supported. It highlights the need to conduct rigorous evaluations and original research to inform threat assessments.  We also find that measures related to social disorganization are important to explaining the presence of a VFRP.  Future research should examine these characteristics in more detail, and investigate if they also explain other types of ideological violence.  

Publication Information

Full Citation: 

Adamczyk, Amy and Steven M. Chermak, Joshua D. Freilich, William S. Parkin. “Examining the Relationship between the Presence of Hate Groups and the Presence of Violent Far-Right Extremists at the County Level,” Final Report to START. College Park MD: START, 2012.

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