This Map Shows Which States Tweet the Most Hate Speech

March 15th 2016

Lucy Tiven

Hate speech, like hate crime, is a problem in America. Whether it's sexist tweets or racist store displays, derogatory words are used to attack other people, individually or as a group. According to recent data, it turns out that U.S. states and cities aren't mouthing off equally.

A survey conducted by the housing site Abodo used Twitter data to map out trends in hate speech across the United States to get a sense of who the biggest offenders are. Abodo analyzed over 12 million tweets from June 2014 to December 2015 and tracked tweets that used derogatory terms by location.

These states have the most hate speech on Twitter.

States With Most Derogatory Language

The states that tweeted the most hate speech were relatively spread out across the country, and included states in the Midwest, Northeast, and on both the Gulf Coast and West Coast.

Louisiana, 'the biggest loser' in terms of tolerance, has a long history of racism, as Slate reported. Klu Klux Klan leader David Duke even held office as a Louisiana state representative.

Texas, Louisiana, and Michigan also made Rolling Stone's 2014 list of the five least LGBT-friendly U.S. states. In 2014, former Texas governor Rick Perry compared homosexuality to alcoholism, while Michigan had one of the highest rates of hate crimes against the LGBT community, according to Rolling Stone.

The most tolerant states.

Abodo also ranked the most tolerant states, which were somewhat geographically scattered.

Most Tolerant States

Wyoming, the most tolerant state, only used 120 slurs per 100,000 tweets, about a tenth of the slurs tweeted in chart-topping Louisiana. Wyoming also proved one of the happiest states, according to a 2009 report by Live Science.

Sexism proves prevalent on Twitter.

The data found that sexist terms were overwhelmingly common. Abodo analyzed tweets with and without the word "bitch" due to its varied uses in profanity without specific sexist intent.

sexist slurs map

When "bitch" was included, Louisiana led the sexist charge, with 894 uses per 100,000 tweets, but when it was excluded, Nevada came out ahead. In 2012, The Huffington Post called Louisiana the worst state for women in 2013 — taking economic security, health issues and representation in leadership roles into account.

Abodo hypothesized that the frequent use of terms like "cunt" and "twat" in Nevada were due to tweets promoting the state's massive adult entertainment industry. The high numbers of sexist tweets may have been related to Hillary Clinton's candidacy, which has seen a great deal of sexist backlash, and, as Abodo noted, drew a great deal of attention to "the prevalence of sexist attitudes across the country," though the study didn't track slurs referencing Clinton specifically.

Anti-Black racial slurs across the U.S.

Anti-Black slurs including the N-word were less common that other types of slurs, but they were the most numerous in West Virginia, Maryland, and Louisiana.

racist tweets map

In West Virginia, there were 83.2 of these words per 100,000 tweets, with 36.5 and 31.3 in Maryland and Louisiana respectively. In 2008, the Huffington Post reported that West Virginia voters were the most racist in the country according to Democratic Primary exit polls. Reporter John K. Wilson speculated as to why:

"So why is West Virginia more racist than the former Confederate states? One reason might be lack of contact with blacks. The exit polls indicated that voters were 95 percent white, and only 3 percent black. Whites may hold on to bigotry when they rarely encounter blacks and do not have their stereotypes challenged."

Abodo also identified the least racist states, which included Idaho, with 2.4 tweets per 100,000, followed by Maine with 2.7.

“Idaho has a history of tolerance,” Bill Roden, an attorney, lobbyist, and former Idaho state lawmaker, told the House State Affairs Committee in 2015. Roden was also a co-sponsor of Idaho's first civil rights law, in 1961. Idaho was also the fourth state to give women the vote, adopting the equality practice quite early on.

Abodo also compared its results to a 2015 study of Google searches for the N-word, which echoed its findings: they were frequent in West Virginia and Louisiana and very infrequent in Idaho and Maine. They also broke down anti-Black tweets by city, and found that the largest amount of slurs were tweeted in cities with large black populations where racially-fueled tensions were high.

Anti-Black Tweets By City

Baltimore has seen especially strained racial relations. In April 2015, riots erupted in the city after the funeral of Freddie Grey, a Black man who died in police custody. As tensions rose between protesters and in the city's police force, President Obama addressed the racial crisis facing the city. "This has been a slow rolling crisis," he said. "This has been going on for a long time."

Anti-Latino racism surged close to the border.

Immigration made headlines throughout 2015 and 2016 when Republican front-runner Donald Trump repeatedly called for a wall dividing the U.S. and Mexico and spurred massive backlash from Latino Americans. Abodo discovered that anti-Hispanic/Latino slurs were tweeted most frequently near the border, in California, Texas, Nevada, Arizona, and New Mexico — states with large numbers of Latino residents.

Anti-Hispanic tweets by state

Despite its large numbers of anti-Black tweets, West Virginia was among the states with the lowest anti-Hispanic slurs, suggesting that anti-Latino racism and anti-Black racism do not always go hand in hand. The survey noted that the anti-Latino tweets may have been more directly linked to racism than anti-Black ones because the Hispanic community hasn't reclaimed anti-Latino slurs.

Homophobic hate speech thrives on Twitter.

Anti-gay tweets were used frequently on the social media platform and states like Texas and Louisiana, who show less support for gay marriage than other parts of the country, saw them more than others.

Homophobic Tweets by City

However, Abodo also pointed out that progressive, liberal cities like San Francisco and Los Angeles also ranked high, with "levels as high as 86.2 and 49.6 per 100,000 tweets, respectively." As Abodo suggests, this may indicate that the LGBT community has adopted and re-purposed certain words like "dyke" and "fag," which appeared as slurs in more anti-gay areas of the country.

Anti-overweight body shaming, mapped out.

While the body positive movement has gained traction in popular media over the past few years, the study still observed that derogatory terms targeting overweight individuals were used in certain parts of the country. Terms like “fattie,” “fatso,” and “fatass" were most prevalent in Louisiana, Texas, Delaware, and Ohio, which have sizable obese populations, but Mississippi, Arkansas, and West Virginia, which also have high obesity rates, according to Abodo, did not tweet as many anti-obese slurs.

Anti overweight tweets

California came in fifth, despite having one of the lowest rates of of obesity in the country. The study concluded that anti-obese language didn't strongly correlate to overweight or obese population size or exercise habits.

These graphs show us that hate speech is varied as America. While some states are comparatively tolerant, others use hateful language to polarize and attack others. The data is pretty consistent with the views in the U.S. where 60 percent of people believe that the country still needs to take steps toward racial equality, according to the most recent Pew Research Poll.

You can read more of Abodo's findings including where neutral terms like "trans person” and "African American" were prevalent on their website.

[H/T Fusion]