Infographic Of The Day: The States Where Hate Groups Thrive

Today’s infographic isn’t going to win any beauty contests, but it hits like a punch in the face. Using the Southern Poverty Law Center’s voluminous database of hate groups, Zara Matheson of the Martin Prosperity Institute simply graphed them by state and adjusted for population:


As famed sociologist Richard Florida points out, hate groups are concentrated in Red States and the South, which is a testament to ancient racial tensions descended from slavery and the Civil War. Here, for example, is a chart showing the correlation between McCain votes in 2008 and the number of hate groups:


Likewise, states with high numbers of people working in the “creative class” — Florida’s area of expertise — generally have lower numbers of hate groups.

But Florida is silent on the extreme outliers in the map: Montana and Mississippi. The latter, of course, was a battleground for the Civil Rights movements and featured some of the most gruesome crimes of that era. Montana, meanwhile, is different — a Libertarian-leaning state where the ideal of rugged individualism has mutated into something else entirely and spawned a hotbed of militia activity. (Let’s not forget that Montana was where the Unabomber hatched his plans.)


The question is why: Why is Mississippi so much worse than, say, Alabama, which saw just as much racial tension during the civil rights movement? And why is Montana such a hotbed, when its neighbors such as Wyoming feature many cultural similarities?

The point is, some states have cultures where hate thrives; sometimes, that hate seems to build upon itself, fomenting more and more of the same. Which is perhaps the scariest lessons of all, if you’re thinking about how these groups spread and thrive.

Check out Florida’s detailed analysis at The Atlantic, and read our Leadership Hall of Fame entry on Florida here.