Revisiting Hate Crimes Under Trump

Hate crimes Trump meme

Hate crimes Trump memeThis widely shared meme was first covered here in a recent post. At the time there was no FBI data available after 2016, which made it impossible to even assess the claims properly. Now, the FBI has released its hate crime statistics for 2017 (though not for 2018) and it’s worth revisiting to see how this meme stacks up to the data, and how hate crimes changed after the 2016 election.

Increased Reporting Agencies

Before the statistics are examined, it’s important to point out that the number of participating agencies reporting to the FBI rose considerably in 2017. Remember, hate crime statistics are not a comprehensive report of all hate crimes, they are compiled from local agencies reporting their findings. While most locales report, not all do.

In 2017, 16,159 agencies reported data, up from 15,254 in 2016. This was an increase of 895 reporting agencies, about 6%. The population these agencies covered in 2017 was 306.4 million, compared to 289.8 million in 2016. This was an increase of 16.6 million people, again about a 6% increase. The total US population is about 329 million.

This means that, all else being equal, we should expect to see a 6% increase in hate crimes in 2017. That is the base line, anything under that would be a decrease in hate crimes and over that would be an increase. This must be factored in when looking at the data. Many media outlets failed to analyze this properly. Some simply ran with headlines reporting the increase in crimes without factoring in the increased population, while other outlets made too big of a deal about the increased reporting, and tried to make it account for more than the 6% that is justified.

Note: in the previous post, I neglected to factor in the increase in reports. While it was smaller from 2015-16 (about a 2% increase) it would actually bolster the findings in that post.

Total Incidents:

In 2017 there were 7,175 reported hate crime incidents, up from 6,121 in 2016. This was an increase of 17%, or about 11% if we factor in the baseline for increased reporting. This is a noticeable increase from the 4.6% increase from 2015-16, but still far less than the “dramatic increase” this meme suggests.

By Race

Remember to subtract 6% for the reporting increase baseline:

  • Anti-White- Increased by 3% (720 to 741)
  • Anti-Black- Increased by 16% (1,739 to 2,013)
  • Anti-Hispanic- Increased by 24% (344 to 427)

When factoring in the reporting increase, the rate of anti-white crimes actually fell slightly (compared to a 17% increase in 2015-16). Meanwhile, anti-black crimes rose (compared to a slight decline in 2015-16) and anti-Hispanic crimes continued their rise over the past two years. However, these increases were nowhere near what the meme suggests.

By Religion

  • Anti-Semitic- Increased by 37% (684 to 938)
  • Anti-Muslim- Decreased by 11% (307 to 273)
  • Anti-Christian- Increased by 23% (150 to 185)

Of note here is the well-publicized rise in anti-Semitic crimes (which were essentially flat from 2015-16). This could be a disturbing trend, although it’s unclear if this includes the series of bomb threats from an Israeli-American teen in early 2017, who was Jewish. These threats were technically hate crimes, but were later found not to be credible and not what most envision a hate crime to be. According to the ADL’s hate crime assessment, about 160 bomb threats in 2017 came from this teen alone. If these hoaxes are removed, the increase in anti-Semitic crimes would drop to a 14% increase (8% factoring in the baseline). However, since the FBI doesn’t break the data down by individual crime this is unknown.

Anti-Muslim crimes actually declined, quite substantially if we factor in the baseline for increased reporting. This follows a 19% increase in 2015-16, which means anti-Muslim crimes have essentially remained unchanged in the Trump era. Anti-Christian crimes increased substantially, which was mostly unreported, but in context their numbers still remain far lower than Muslim and Jewish crimes given their higher following in the US.

Who Committed the Crimes

  • White Offenders- Increased by 20% (2,680 to 3,228)
  • Black Offenders- Decreased by 9% (1,331 to 1,217)
  • Hispanic Offenders- Increased by 38% (254-350)

The major changes here compared to 2015-16 are white and black offenders. The previous year saw a decrease in white offenders and an increase in black offenders, which reversed in 2017. However, when averaged out, both remained relatively unchanged when factoring in the increased reporting.

Hispanic offenders increased rapidly in each of the past two years (40% and 38%). This is a notable and mostly unreported trend, but in context it must be pointed out that whites still commit the vast majority of hate crimes (and blacks the most per capita).

Overall Trend

The 17% increase in hate crimes last year (11% if you factor in the reporting increase) received big headlines, but when the overall historical trend is considered, things still look pretty good. Here are two charts:


Historical chart of hate crimes

Historical hate crime data (1996-2017) compiled from Steven Pinker

Hate crimes per year

Hate Crimes per year. Doesn’t include 2017, which had 7,175 incidents

Reports of hate crimes bottomed out in 2014, and have risen since, but are still generally lower than a decade or two ago, and that’s with a much larger population being reported. For example, if we go back to 2008, there were almost 2,500 fewer agencies reporting, covering 37 million fewer people. If trends stayed the same with that population, we should have around 8,500-9,000 hate crimes per year (compared to 7,125 today).

If we went back to 2000, reports included 70 million fewer people, and hate crimes would be at about 10,000 per year if corrected for population. This is seldom pointed out, but illustrates the positive trend in our culture of less hate crimes.

Even the recent spike in anti-Semitic crimes still leaves us lower today than 10 or 20 years ago. The only major religious, racial or ethnic group to have experienced an increase in hate crimes in the past couple decades is Muslims, but that likely has to do with their rapid growth in population. That trend also reversed last year.


When examining the latest 2017 data, this meme still wildly overstates the hate crime increase since the 2016 election. Some claims, like a 77% increase in anti-Muslim crimes, are actually the opposite of reality and have declined since 2016. It’s worth revisiting this each year when new data comes out, but for now this meme should be declared false.