Theses Master's

Human Rights and the Rise of Extremist Hate Groups: Determining Correlations Between Human Rights Fulfillment, Extremism and Hate Activity, and Democracy

Helmick, Brooke

Situated in the contemporary conversation regarding the health of U.S. democracy and the threat of democratic backsliding, this project looks to draw correlations between sociopolitical metrics – which this project calls “social wellness indicators” – and the rise of extremist organizations and hate groups. In order to accomplish this, data from 2012-2021 was sourced from federal databases (i.e., the National Center for Education Services, the U.S. Department of Agriculture [USDA], and the U.S. Census Bureau) as well civil society organizations’ publicly accessible data (i.e., the Southern Poverty Law Center and the Anti-Defamation League). These data sets were then cross compared to highlight relevant correlations.

This project found that in states where social wellness was high, extremism and hate were low; however, states that saw low levels of social wellness did not necessarily see high levels of extremism and hate. Instead, states that saw high levels of extremism did not have strong correlations with social wellness data or with other states that also saw high levels of extremism. In light of this, governments can find clear incentivization to fund and promote the inputs which contribute to high social wellness in order to keep communities safe and reduce the level of extremist organizing and hate-based violence. For human rights practitioners, the urgency of this work comes with recognizing the limitations of the human rights regime and therefore turning to community based organizations to continue peacebuilding work which can lessen extremist violence. In all, work to measure and mitigate extremist violence can lead to increase stability and lessen the potential opportunity for democratic backsliding.

Geographic Areas


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More About This Work

Academic Units
Institute for the Study of Human Rights
Thesis Advisors
Chuman, Joseph N.
M.A., Columbia University
Published Here
March 8, 2023