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Econ Students Debunk Study Showing Drastic Rise in Hate Crimes Following Trump Rallies

President Trump speaks during a campaign rally in Grand Rapids, Mich., March 28, 2019. (Joshua Roberts/Reuters)

A study purporting to show area hate crimes tended to spike following Trump rallies, which went viral earlier this year, is fatally flawed in its methodology, according to a new analysis by two economics P.h.D. students at Harvard University.

The study, which found a 226 percent increase in white-nationalist propaganda and hate crimes in counties that hosted Trump campaign rallies, failed to account for political campaigns’ preference for hosting rallies in highly populated areas that naturally tend to experience more hate crimes, according to the analysis conducted by Harvard P.h.D. candidates Matthew Lilley and Brian Wheaton.

Lilley and Wheaton were able to replicate the initial study’s findings with respect to Trump rallies, but found an even greater increase in hate crimes in counties that hosted Clinton campaign rallies during the same period.

Once the researchers controlled for population size, the effect of Trump rallies on hate crimes became “statistically indistinguishable from zero.”

The original study was produced by three professors at the University of North Texas and Texas A&M, Ayal Feinberg, Regina Branton, and Valerie Martinez-Ebers. It was cited in articles published by Vox, the Washington Post, the San Francisco Chronicle, and CNN as evidence that Trump’s anti-immigration rhetoric incites violence.

Senator Bernie Sanders (D., Vt.) also pointed to the study while accusing Trump of creating “a climate which emboldens violent extremists” in an August Facebook post. Representative Ilhan Omar (D., Minn.) employed the faulty data in a similar manner, accusing Trump of “directly and indirectly inciting hate.”

The notion that Trump’s rhetoric leads directly to racist violence was parroted by a number of prominent Democrats following the mass shooting in El Paso, Texas last month.

Long-shot Democratic presidential aspirant Beto O’Rourke said Trump’s rhetoric “has a lot to do with” the recent scourge of mass shootings, while another candidate, Senator Kamala Harris of California, said Trump was “tweeting out the ammunition” that the El Paso shooter used to kill civilians.

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