O’Rourke described Trump as ‘stoking racism’ and claimed there’d been a rise in hate crimes in every year of his presidency. In Britain, we hear similar claims about the effect of the Leave victory in the EU referendum, but hate crime data is notoriously unreliable. O’Rourke is referring to the number of reported hate crimes, which isn’t a robust measure because various American agencies have spent millions encouraging people to report hate crimes and making it easier to do so. To see whether the overall level has increased you need to look at whether unreported hate crimes have gone up or down in the same period. That exercise was carried out by the Bureau of Justice Statistics in 2018 which found that while reported hate crimes increased from 104,400 to 107,900 between 2016 and 2017, unreported hate crimes fell from 92,100 to 86,900, meaning the total number actually fell in the first year of Trump’s presidency.
If you look at the past 10 years, the total level of hate crime is declining in the US, as is the amount of racism and anti-immigration sentiment, and Trump’s victory has done nothing to reverse that. Sociologists at the University of Pennsylvania published a study this year showing that Americans have become less inclined to express racist views since 2016, something true of Republican voters as well as Democrats, and a Gallup poll in June 2019 found 76 percent of Americans believe immigration is a good thing, the highest number to date. The same trends are visible in the UK: the population has become less racist and more pro-immigration since the Brexit vote. The liberal narrative about the toxic effect of the rise of far-right populism turns out to be nonsense.