In 2015, at least 892 "hate" groups were operating throughout the United States, according to Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC). This represents a 14 percent increase from the 784 groups recorded a year before. Still, the current figures are lower than the all-time high in 2011 as traditional organised extremism continues to shrink in favor of collective and individual cyber-based activism.
The SPLC defines a hate group as an organised movement that has beliefs or practices that attack or malign an entire class of people based on religion, race, sexual orientation, gender, nationality, and other immutable characteristics. The SPLC monitors the activities of such domestic hate groups as the Ku Klux Klan (KKK), neo-Nazi, racist skinhead, black separatist, Christian Identity, white nationalist, neo-Confederate, and general hate (or, "other"). Through the work of the SPLC, disturbing and enlightening trends that underscore the origins and means of continued existence in modern US society emerge:
The oldest US-based hate group is also the largest. The most populous hate group is the Ku Klux Klan, with an estimated 5,000 to 8,000 members among its 190 chapters. Almost one-third of the chapters (52) are registered in the state of Texas. Founded in 1865, the KKK is also the oldest of the American hate groups and has historically targeted black Americans, members of the Jewish and Catholic churches, homosexuals, and immigrants.
Hate groups are increasingly focused on lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender persons. The composition of the general hate group has significantly changed during the last five years. While the number of anti-immigrant, radical traditional Catholic, and anti-Muslim groups remained steady, the number of the anti-LGBT groups expanded almost twofold. One of the reasons for for the expansion was spreading opposition to same-sex marriage and related issues that have been at the forefront of US politics and legislation. The upcoming US presidential election has also increased the activity of the anti-LGBT movement, as the demonization of the LGBT community has proven to be politically expedient for some candidates. For example, Donald Trump's campaign released a “Free to Believe” broadcast that was organized by the Family Research Council, a group the SPLC categorizes as an anti-LGBT.
Neo-Nazi groups are on the decline even as media glare returns. The number of groups espousing racial identity, such as neo-Nazi, racist skinhead and white nationalist decreased steadily during 2015. Among them, the neo-Nazi group saw the most notable decline with 45 of its chapters being shut down last year. US-based neo-Nazi activism has hit recent international media headlines in connection with the murder of British MP Jo Cox. The killer, Thomas Mair, was said to have bought books from a US-based neo-Nazi group. Mair's collection included a guide on how to make a homemade gun.