A new study has found that hate is a national phenomenon, though with some regional differences.
For the study, researchers at the University of Utah mapped the patterns of active hate groups in every U.S. county in 2014, and analyzed their potential socioeconomic and ideological drivers.
They found that in all U.S. regions, less education, population change, and ethnic diversity correlated with more hate groups, as did areas with higher poverty rates and more conservative political affiliation.
There were regional differences, however. Researchers say these may be the result of diverse ethnic and cultural histories.
The geographers from the university assert that organized hate is motivated by the desire to protect a place from the perceived threats that “outsiders” pose to identity and socioeconomic security.
“There is a lot of uncertainty in the country today, and a lot of change. For those involved in hate group activities, they see their actions as a way to secure the future of their people. Unfortunately, that fear turns to hate, and in the worst case, violence,” said Dr. Richard Medina, assistant professor in the Department of Geography and senior author of the study.
“Hate is a geographic problem,” he continued. “The ways people hate are based on the cultures, histories, ethnicities, and many other factors dependent on place and place perception.”
“When thinking about hate and place, it really boils down to thinking about identity,” added Emily Nicolosi, co-author and doctoral student. “Some people have strong feelings about who belongs, and who doesn’t belong in ‘their’ place. When they see people coming in that they think don’t belong, their very identity feels threatened.”
According to the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), a hate group is an organized group or ideology with beliefs or practices that malign an entire class of people due to their immutable characteristics, such as race, gender, religion, ethnicity, disability or sexual orientation.
Though hate has always existed, 2016 saw a near-high in the number of hate groups in the United States, according to the SPLC.
The researchers mapped active hate groups for every U.S. county using the SPLC database from 2014. They compared the relationships between these groups with the county’s socioeconomic factors, meant to represent diversity, poverty, education level and population stability, and ideological factors, represented as religion and degree of conservativism.
“People hate for different reasons because U.S. regions have different situations and histories,” said Nicolosi. “For example, the Northeast is a place of power that may be seen as elitist and well-educated. Is there still hate? Yes. Some of the reasons people hate there are different than in the South, where there’s a different history of the Confederacy, of discrimination, and so on.”
The researchers say they next want to analyze the differences between different types of hate groups, and whether hate groups are linked to violent behavior.
“First and foremost, I want our paper to help people understand how much we don’t know about hate — hate is not a uniform phenomenon. Hopefully this study motivates people to start asking more questions, especially right now,” said Medina. “We have a long way to go before we really understand the drivers and patterns of hate in this country.”
The study was published in the Annals of the American Association of Geographers.
Source: University of Utah