There were 1,020 hate groups operating in the US last year—a record high, and a 7% increase from 2017, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center's annual report. The last time hate groups surged in the US was in response to the election of Barack Obama as the country's first black president, with numbers rising 9% during the first three years of his presidency to hit the last record of 1,018 in 2011. From that point, numbers dropped each year until 2015, when Donald Trump declared his candidacy for president. Since 2015, numbers are up 30%, Reuters reports, and the SPLC says Trump's rhetoric is partially to blame.
"The words and imagery coming out of the Trump administration and from Trump himself are heightening these fears," the director of the SPLC's Intelligence Project told reporters. "These images of foreign scary invaders threatening diseases, massive refugee caravans coming from the south. This is fear-mongering." The SPLC says the internet also contributes, with hate groups easily able to recruit members and incite vitriol online. The most significant recent growth is in white nationalist organizations, with their numbers going from 193 two years ago to 264 currently, USA Today reports. (Read more hate groups stories.)