A study purporting to show that hate crimes increased 226% in counties that hosted rallies for then-candidate Donald Trump in 2016 has been officially debunked. Not only did the study’s authors fail to account for the fact that political campaigns prefer to host rallies in populous areas, which already experience more hate crimes, but the authors didn’t check to see if the same increase could be applied to Hillary Clinton’s rallies.
Simply applying the same formula as the original academics, two Ph.D. students from Harvard University found that “Clinton rallies contribute to an even greater increase in hate crimes incidents than Trump rallies.” (Emphasis original.)
Back in March, professors from the University of North Texas and Texas A&M produced the study, which claimed Trump’s rallies led to an increase in hate crimes in the counties where they were hosted.
The study was actually debunked in late August by Reason’s Robby Soave. Politifact earlier that month rated a tweet from Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) using the statistic as “Half True,” but in true Politifact fashion, it still defended the study.
Soave, however, noted that the study did not, as Democrat politicians claimed, show that Trump caused an increase in hate crimes, but rather that “counties that hosted Trump rallies experienced 3.26 times as many incidents as other counties, a 226 percent difference.”
But, Soave noted, the underlying data was limited to anti-Semitism. The data came from an Anti-Defamation League report, but the incidents include many that aren’t even actual hate crimes.
“A great many incidents on the ADL's list are schoolyard bullying, for example,” Soave wrote. “According to this study, Trump's political rallies are correlated with a significant spike in these kinds of incidents, but that's not as strong a finding as the headlines suggest.”
The Harvard students painstakingly recreated the original study to discover the same findings on Trump rallies, but then applied the formula to Clinton’s rallies. So, does that mean Clinton should be accused of causing even more violence than Trump? No, said the Harvard students:
Both of these results rely on comparing counties with rallies to other counties without them. This produces a glaring problem. Politicians tend to hold political rallies near where large numbers of people live. And in places with more people, the raw number of crimes is generally mechanically higher. Simply put, no one should be surprised that Orange County, California (population 3.19 million) was home to both more reported hate incidents (5) and Trump rallies (2) than Orange County, Indiana (population 19,840, which had zero of each).
The Harvard students went a step further. Unlike the original study, they added “a simple statistical control for county population to the original analysis causes the estimated effect of Trump rallies on reported hate incidents to become statistically indistinguishable from zero.” (Emphasis added.)
None of the studies glaring flaws caused left-wing media outlets like Vox, The Washington Post, or CNN to pause. They saw a “study” that supported the narrative that Trump’s rhetoric causes racism and violence and ran with it, as did numerous Democrat politicians.