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Study: Regional Factors Drive Hate Groups in U.S.

New research suggests that communities that are able to meet and interact with people from different backgrounds tend to have less hate. (Pixabay)
New research suggests that communities that are able to meet and interact with people from different backgrounds tend to have less hate. (Pixabay)
February 14, 2018

DENVER - Hate is a national phenomenon, but the way hate is directed varies depending on where you live, according to new research from the University of Utah.

A team of geographers mapped the patterns of active hate groups in more than 360 U.S. counties in 2014, and found that nationwide, less education, population change, ethnic diversity, poverty and conservative politics correlated with more hate groups. However, Richard Medina, the report's senior author, said the ways people hate are based on cultures, histories and other factors specific to different regions.

"If you look at the South, they have different racial issues, and areas along the border of the U.S. may focus on anti-immigrant issues," he said. "So you can start to see this whole map of hate that is really regionally specific."

Medina and his team focused on organized groups that target entire classes of people based on factors beyond their control - including ethnicity, gender, disability and sexual orientation. According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, 2016 saw a near-high in the number of hate groups in the United States.

While many people are facing uncertainty and change, Medina said, those involved in hate groups believe their actions will help secure the future for the people they see as members of their tribe. Medina said fear can turn to hate and, in the worst case, violence.

"The neo-Nazi, the national anti-immigrant hate, really, I think, in a lot of ways, boils down to this fear of losing identity from what those people consider to be 'other' people," he said.

Emily Nicolosi, a doctoral candidate who contributed to the study, said places that have a history of large-scale immigration, such as the east and west coasts, are more accepting of people with different backgrounds. She added that even in non-coastal regions, counties that experienced an influx of new people over a five-year period tended to have less hate.

"So that kind of goes to show that ... when people perhaps have a chance to interact with people who are different (from) them, that might contribute to more tolerance," she said.

The study, recently published in the Annals of the American Association of Geographers, is online at tandfonline.com.

Eric Galatas, Public News Service - CO