For 1st Time This Century, Far-Right Groups Decline
But those left are 'leaner and meaner,' watchdog warns
By Rob Quinn, Newser Staff
Posted Feb 26, 2014 1:05 AM CST
Members of the Ku Klux Klan protest on the steps of Fulton Chapel at the University of Mississippi.   (AP Photo/The Clarion-Ledger, Ryan Moore)

(Newser) – Tough times for the far right? The number of militias, skinhead gangs, and other extremist groups in the US dropped last year for the first time since 1999, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center. The hate-group watchdog found that the number of extreme-right groups dropped around 14% to 2,035, though it says the fall followed "four years of explosive growth," reports CNN. The number of organizations classed as hate groups dropped 7% to 939—up from just 457 in 1999. "Patriot" groups dropped by 19% to 1,096, but there were only 149 such groups in 2008.

The drop is owed to many factors, including internal squabbles, legal troubles, the improving economy, widespread demoralization at President Obama's re-election—and the adoption of some extremist policies by mainstream politicians, the SPLC says. But despite the drop in numbers, the center warns that far-right extremists are still a serious threat, reports the Los Angeles Times. "The radical right is growing leaner and meaner," a senior fellow at the center says. "The numbers are down somewhat, but the potential for violence remains high."