According to an analysis of FBI data by The Washington Post, hate crimes in the U.S. spiked the day after President Donald Trump was elected, with more reports in a single day than any other day in 2016.
The Post also found that the number of reported hate crimes remained higher than that of election day -- on which 10 reports were made -- for the next 10 days.
FBI data collected since the early 1990s show that reports of hate crimes typically spike during election years, according to a study by the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism at California State University, San Bernardino. There was a 21 percent increase in reported hate crimes the day after Barack Obama won his first election in 2008, though hate crime reports remained relatively flat for the rest of the year.
Why the spike following presidential elections? There is no clear-cut answer.
It could be that people frustrated or energized by the election results take out those emotions on people who are different from them. Or, given that hate crimes are notoriously underreported, the election could embolden victims to report the crimes against them.
But a conspiracy case in Kansas shows how elections could potentially influence people to turn their political views into criminal acts. A trial began Thursday for three white men accused of plotting to bomb a mosque and a building where many Somali Muslim refugees live in southwest Kansas. Prosecutors say the men planned to detonate the bombs the day after the 2016 election.
An attorney for one of the defendants in the case claimed that his client had been influenced by the fiery campaign rhetoric surrounding Muslims.
They’ve been charged with conspiracy to use a weapon of mass destruction, not a hate crime. But according to a criminal complaint, Stein was recorded by an FBI informant saying, “The only good Muslim is a dead Muslim,” and “If you’re a Muslim, I’m going to enjoy shooting you in the head.”
According to Brian Levin, head of the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism at California State University, San Bernadino, it can be difficult to nail down all the factors involved when hate crimes spike:
“There’s no one single accelerant for a hate crime although, at particular times, one accelerant will override like a terrorist attack. That being said, the basic truth that a catalytic event can correlate to an increase in hate crime is quite stark.”