Hate Groups on the Rise in U.S., Report Says

Image Credit: Southern Poverty Law Center

The number of hate groups in the U.S.  has grown each year for the past 11 years, according to a new report from the Southern Poverty Law Center. In 2000 the center reported that there were 602 hate groups;  in 2011 that number had climbed to 1,018.

"We've never had a count that high before," Mark Potok, the author of the report, told ABC News. "It's just steady significant growth, 3, 4, 5  percent every year going back to the turn of the millennium."

Potok said the increase from 2000 to 2008 was primarily fueled by the immigration debate.

"Around 2000, we saw very dramatically neo-Nazi groups, Klan groups and similar kinds of groups simply drop their propaganda about the alleged evils of black people, of gay people, of Jewish people in order to concentrate pretty much 100 percent on illegal immigrants," he said. "In 2008, we have two more factors come into play. We have Obama and the economy."

The most recent report reveals that there where two types of hate groups that saw a significant increase  from 2010 to 2011: anti-Muslim and anti-gay groups.

Anti-Muslim hate groups tripled from 10  to 30 last year, and anti-gay hate groups increased from 17 to 27.

Potok attributes the rise in anti-Muslim groups to the debate over the ground zero mosque in 2010 and to "opportunistic politicians and activists."

"It was a completely artificial thing," Potok said. "That anti-Muslim wave is the work of propogandists and nothing more."

In regards to the rise in anti-gay groups, Potok believes it is likely the result of desperation that public opinion is not on their side.

"Basically, we're seeing real anger, real fury, on the part of some religious right groups, and I think that's related to the fact that they are losing," he said. "Every year the majority of Americans who support same sex marriage grows. … What we're seeing is a kind of rage on their part."

Potok expects the rage to grow and the number of hate groups to continue to rise if President Obama is re-elected.

"I think it has the potential to get worse before it gets better," Potok said. "As  it becomes more likely that Obama will ultimately win, these groups are getting angrier and angrier. They're looking at four years under a black guy who they hate."