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The Hill, March 23, 2019

United States counties where President Trump hosted a campaign rally in 2016 saw a 226 percent increase in reported hate crimes compared to similar counties that did not host one, an analysis released by The Washington Post has revealed.

The analysis, which was published on Friday, was conducted by Ayal Feinberg, a Ph.D. candidate in political science at the University of North Texas, and Regina Branton and Valerie Martinez-Ebers, two political science professors at the university.

They said their research sought to explain how some of Trump’s rhetoric "may encourage hate crimes."

The analysis examined whether there was a correlation between counties that held a Trump rally in 2016 and increased incidents of hate crimes in the months that followed such events.

"To test this, we aggregated hate-crime incident data and Trump rally data to the county level and then used statistical tools to estimate a rally’s impact," the three wrote.

"We included controls for factors such as the county’s crime rates, its number of active hate groups, its minority populations, its percentage with college educations, its location in the country and the month when the rallies occurred," they continued.

The study's authors said their findings revealed that counties that hosted one of Trump’s 275 campaign rallies in 2016 saw a 226 percent increase in reported hate crimes compared to comparable counties that didn’t host a rally.

"We examined this question, given that so many politicians and pundits accuse Trump of emboldening white nationalists," they said in The Washington Post.

They also said their analysis "cannot be certain" it was the president’s rhetoric at his campaign rallies that caused people to commit more hate crimes in the counties.

But the three said that suggestions this effect can "be explained through a plethora of faux hate crimes are at best unrealistic."

"In fact, this charge is frequently used as a political tool to dismiss concerns about hate crimes," they said. "Research shows it is far more likely that hate crime statistics are considerably lower because of underreporting." 

"Additionally, it is hard to discount a 'Trump effect' when a considerable number of these reported hate crimes reference Trump," the group continued. "According to the [Anti-Defamation League’s] 2016 data, these incidents included vandalism, intimidation and assault."

The analysis also pointed to FBI data from 2017 that showed a 17 percent increase in reported hate crimes over 2016.

Democrats have long lambasted the president for emboldening white nationalism, claims Trump has strongly denied.

Shortly after a deadly gun attack at two mosques in New Zealand that left 50 people dead last week, Trump was asked whether he sees a rise in white nationalism.

"I don't really. I think it’s a small group of people that have very, very serious problems," he told reporters in the Oval Office. "If you look what happened in New Zealand, perhaps that’s the case. I don’t know enough about it yet." 

Developments in that tragedy, including a manifesto believed to have belonged to the suspected shooter that said he supported Trump "as a symbol of renewed white identity," also have renewed debate about the president’s rhetoric and whether he is responsible for stoking white nationalism.