Americans have never been more interested in looking up the Ku Klux Klan online than they are right now, according to search data from Google Trends.
Google doesn't publish the exact number of people who are searching for the infamous and often violent white supremacist group, or for any other topic. But comparisons to other, presumably high-volume search terms give some sense of the magnitude. For several days this month, about as many people were searching for the Ku Klux Klan as were looking for Kim Kardashian and college football, combined.
In November, interest in the Ku Klux Klan is about twice as high as it was at its previous 12-year peak back in March of this year, when Donald Trump did not immediately renounce an endorsement from former Klan leader David Duke. Interest in the Klan also spiked in November 2008, after the election of the first black president.
The hate group has maintained a high profile this election year. The campaign of President-elect Donald Trump has energized white supremacists who see him as a leader who will champion their causes. Notable white supremacists have endorsed Trump on the campaign trail, and they've funded ads supporting him in several key states.
Duke ran a long-shot campaign for a U.S. Senate seat this year, saying at the time that he was “overjoyed to see Donald Trump and most Americans embrace most of the issues that I’ve championed for years.” Duke ultimately won 3 percent of the vote in Louisiana's senate contest.
In the aftermath of the presidential election, Klan leaders praised the results and planned to hold a victory parade in celebration.
Trump's reaction to all the attention from these quarters of America's political landscape has been mixed. He initially declined to disavow an endorsement from Duke, later blaming the episode on a misunderstanding due to a faulty earpiece. Several times he shared tweets from white supremacists on the campaign trail. He's allied himself with several hard-right leaders, including Stephen K. Bannon of Breitbart News and Frank Gaffney, an anti-Muslim conspiracy theorist who believes that Muslims hostile to U.S. interests are infiltrating all levels of the U.S. government.
Trump has repeatedly denounced the support of the Ku Klux Klan. After the group's official newspaper devoted its front page to the candidate earlier this month, Trump's campaign released a statement saying, “Mr. Trump and the campaign denounce hate in any form. This publication is repulsive and their views do not represent the tens of millions of Americans who are uniting behind our campaign.”
Google's data doesn't indicate peoples' sentiment toward the Klan when they search for it — whether they view it positively or negatively. It does, however, illustrate how the Klan is now seen as part of current events, rather than a relic of the past.
In 2006, for example, people who searched for the Ku Klux Klan were also searching primarily for topics related to history and racism, according to Google's data, suggesting attempts to situate the clan within the country's history.
In the past year, however, people searching for the Klan were also looking for information on Trump, Hillary Clinton and African Americans in general, according to Google.