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Explaining Ethnoreligious Minority Targeting: Variation in U.S. Anti-Semitic Incidents

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  05 February 2020


Over the last two decades alone, the United States has suffered well over ten thousand religion-motivated hate crimes. While racism and religion-motivated prejudice have received considerable attention following the “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville that resulted in deadly violence, there is little systematic scholarship evaluating where and when incidents targeting ethnoreligious minorities by non-state actors are likely to occur. Utilizing the FBI’s reported anti-Semitic hate crime data from 2001–2014, my main theoretical and empirical exercise is to determine which factors best explain where and when American ethnoreligious groups are likely to be targeted. I propose that there are four essential mechanisms necessary to explain variation in minority targeting: “opportunity” (target group concentration), “distinguishability” (target group visibility), “stimuli” (events increasing target group salience) and “organization” (hate group quantity). My models show that variables falling within each of these theoretical concepts significantly explain variation in anti-Semitic incidents in the United States. Of particular importance for scholars and practitioners alike, Israeli military operations and the number of active hate groups within a state play a major role in explaining anti-Semitic incident variation.

Special Section: The Uses of Violence
© American Political Science Association 2020

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*Data replication sets are available in Harvard Dataverse at:

He wishes to thank Marijke Breuning, J. Michael Greig, John Ishiyama, Regina Branton, Valerie Martinez-Ebers, Phil Paolino, James Meernik, Ronald McGauvran, Brandon Stewart, and the anonymous Perspectives on Politics reviewers for their insightful comments and suggestions. He also wishers to thank Michael Bernhard for his invaluable advice.


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