What Creates Hate?: Examining the Motivations of Right-Wing Hate Groups In 2017
Chung, Derrek Aaran
Hate groups saw accelerated growth in 2017, with the size of the hate group community growing to a level not seen in recent memory. In addition to purely numbers-based growth, the composition of hate groups in the United States has shifted to be more reflective of modern grievances. Despite this growth, little research has been done to determine what environmental triggers may have facilitated the (re)activation of hate groups in the United States. Disagreement exists regarding what factors motivate hate group activity; however, a body of literature points to anxiety as being a possible culprit. Feelings of anxiety, it has been argued, may push individuals to blame others for their circumstances, creating animosity toward outgroups. Choosing to participate in a hate group has been viewed as an extension of that behavior. This thesis investigates whether that story holds merit, examining whether environmental factors were more prominent in counties that saw a newly (re)activated right-wing hate group in 2017. Specifically, this thesis uses nearest neighbor and Kernel matching to determine whether counties that saw newly (re)activated right-wing hate groups in 2017 had higher levels of economic, social, and cultural anxiety compared to those that did not. The results indicate that social and cultural anxiety were significantly higher in counties that saw newly (re)activated right-wing hate groups in 2017, but economic anxiety was not significantly more present. These findings indicate that the far-right may be shifting ideologically away from economic appeals and towards appeals that maximize social and cultural fear. Moreover, these findings reiterate the need for authoritative research on right-wing extremism and hate groups.