Black Americans (72%) are especially likely to say hate crimes are happening more frequently in the past 12 months  

Discussion about hate crimes has been in the news recently, thanks to a case involving singer and actor Jussie Smollett. In January, the Empire actor claimed two men approached him around 2 a.m. near his apartment in Chicago, shouted "racial and homophobic slurs," poured an "unknown chemical substance" on him, and wrapped a noose around his neck. Police investigated the incident and found that the two men claimed Smollett had paid them to stage the attack. The actor was charged with filing a false report, and turned himself in.

The story may continue to develop, and many Americans will likely be paying attention: 61% say that they’ve been following the recent news about Smollett closely. Only 15% say they haven’t heard anything about him lately.

While the alleged hate crime involving Smollett now appears to have been staged, most Americans still believe that hate crimes are on the rise. A majority (53%) say that hate crimes have been happening more frequently within the last year, in particular. Black Americans (72%) are especially likely to say this, with 43% saying that these types of crimes are happening “much more frequently.”

Over four in ten (41%) Republicans say hate crimes are happening more frequently in the US compared to 12 months ago. Only 19% say they’re happening less frequently, while 34% say the frequency hasn’t changed. A majority of Democrats (71%) say hate crimes have been happening more frequently within the last year, though another 17% say the frequency hasn’t changed.

Those who say they’ve been following the news about Jussie Smollett “very closely” are considerably more likely (19%) to say hate crimes have been happening less frequently within the past year. Only 9% of those who have not been following the Smollett news closely say that hate crimes are happening less frequently than they were 12 months ago.

Data from the FBI suggests that there were more hate crime incidents reported in 2017 (the most recent year FBI data on the topic is available) than there were in 2016. In total, 7,175 incidents were reported to the FBI in 2017, up from 6,121 in 2016 — an increase of 17%.

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