A new report from The Leadership Conference Education Fund — “Cause for Concern 2024: The State of Hate” — highlights an unmistakable pattern during each of the last four presidential campaign cycles: Reported hate crimes increase during elections.
And while not all hate crimes and hate incidents are committed by white supremacists, as the paper outlines, white supremacists have been particularly active during the last four presidential elections. From the mainstreaming of hate and the failure of social media platforms to adequately address disinformation, the current climate is rife with opportunities for the trend of increased hate to continue into the 2024 election — unless action is taken.
In March 2023, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) released the most recent statistics on hate crimes. These data showed that 2021 was the highest year on record for reported hate crimes since the FBI began publishing the data in 1991. But because law enforcement agencies do not have to report any data on hate crimes to the FBI, this is not the full picture. In fact, 2021 had the lowest amount of participation from law enforcement agencies since 2012. Even though the most recent data show the highest number of reported hate crimes on record, we know the reality is far worse.
Tragically, since 2015, reported hate crimes have nearly doubled. The Trump candidacy empowered white nationalists and provided them with a platform — one they had been seeking with renewed intensity since the historic election of America’s first Black president in 2008. Since 2015, communities across the country have experienced some of the most violent and deadliest years for hate in modern history.
Today’s political climate is highly charged. From white supremacist and anti-government movements coalescing and moving more into the political mainstream, to conspiracy theories circulating online and public officials amplifying hate, there are few — if any — signs that tensions will lessen. Movements grounded in attempts to whitewash history and deny the rights of the LGBTQ+ community have turned hate into campaign platforms.
Contributing to this climate are social media companies that have not internalized the lessons of the past and have set the stage for a 2024 election year that is at least as toxic online as past elections. Platforms have policies in place that curb and prevent the spread of hate and voting disinformation, but they do not consistently enforce them. Furthermore, major platforms have cut back or eliminated their trust and safety staff and hollowed out protections against hate incitements on their platforms.
In this paper — the most recent publication in The Education Fund’s “Cause for Concern” series first published in 1997 — The Education Fund provides the following recommendations for how to address the current state of hate ahead of a deeply concerning 2024 election cycle:
- Social media platforms must invest in de-platforming hate for the upcoming local, state, and national elections.
- The federal government must confront and address white supremacist violence without further criminalizing communities of color, religious minorities, and other marginalized communities.
- Congress must mandate hate crime data collection and reporting.
- Public officials must speak out against hate.