Alexandra Filindra, Ph.D.

aleka@uic.edu

University of Illinois at Chicago

Phone: 8482181943

Address: 5555 N Sheridan Rd, Apt 302

City: Chicago, Illinois - 60640

Country: United States

About Me:

Alexandra Filindra is Associate Professor of Political Science at the University of Illinois, Chicago.  She specializes in American immigration policy, gun rights and gun control, racial prejudice and its effects on policy preferences, public opinion, and political psychology.  Dr. Filindra received her Ph.D. from Rutgers University and served as a post-doctoral researcher at Brown University’s Taubman Center for Public Policy and American Institutions and the Center for the Study of Human Development. Her work has appeared in Political Behavior, Policy Studies Journal, State Politics and Policy Quarterly, Social Science Quarterly, Urban Affairs Review, Harvard Education Review, Migration Studies, International Migration and other scholarly journals. Her research has been supported by grants from the University of Illinois at Chicago, the Pew Center for the States, the Russell Sage Foundation, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and the Rhode Island Foundation. She is the recipient of three best paper awards from the American Political Science Association and the Lucius Barker Award from the Midwest Political Science Association.

Research Interests

Immigration & Citizenship

Gun Politics

Race, Ethnicity and Politics

Public Opinion

Racism And Guns

Immigration Policy Effects

Immigration Policy Drivers

Racism And Democracy

Partisan Leadership

Countries of Interest

United States

My Research:

My research agenda focuses on public policy using perspectives from a variety of disciplines, including media studies. In my work, I draw on historical, psychological, and sociological scholarship on social identities and race and ethnicity, to analyze three inter-related questions: 1) what drives public policy outcomes; 2) how are public preferences on policy shaped; 3) what are the substantive and symbolic effects of public policies that target marginalized groups and do they spillover beyond the intended targets?  All three questions have direct implications for mediated political communication on public policy.  More recently, I have extended my research agenda to include three other key issues that I view as related to but prior to public policy: 1) what drives public support for non-democratic elites that threaten the destruction of liberal democracy; 2) can popular ingroup leaders be effectively criticized and contained from within the political group?  3) what mechanisms have contributed to the erosion of racial egalitarian norms in the U.S.? This research highlights the role of partisan media in fostering mistrust in political institutions including the free press itself. The normative motivation for my work is a desire to combat social and economic inequities by employing the tools of political communication and social science more broadly.

Publications:

Journal Articles:

(2019) Coping with a changing integration policy context: American state policies and their effects on immigrant political engagement, Regional Studies

Over the past two decades, US states differentially increased their involvement in immigration policy-making, producing both welcoming and restrictive legislation. This uptick allows for a systematic comparative analysis on how state-level policies affect immigrants’ political attitudes and behaviour. This paper scrutinizes this question by drawing on the policy feedback literature and using a new immigration policy database and individual-level Cooperative Congressional Election Study (CCES) survey data. The quantitative models reveal heterogeneous effects of state-level integration policies on voter turnout and governor approval among different ethnic and nativity groups. The study comprehensively documents regional integration policy outcomes and contributes to emerging theories on spillover effects.

(2018) Is Threat In the Eye of the Researcher? Theory and Measurement in the Study of State‐Level Immigration Policymaking, Policy Studies Journal

This study initiates a methodological critique of the state‐level immigration policy literature through the lens of the racial threat and group power perspectives. First, I highlight the conceptual problems related to the application of such theories to legislature‐level data analysis. Next, I demonstrate the methodological and analytical problems that raise concerns about ad hoc theorizing in this field. Using counts of hostile and welcoming immigration legislation (2005–2011), I demonstrate that outgroup size measures correlate positively with both dependent variables while measures of population growth rate yield null results unless used on their own. These results suggest that the use of legislature‐level models with demographic indicators does not allow us to gain a clear understanding of whether and how population dynamics influence immigration policymaking. Based on these findings, I recommend that when using demographic indicators as key explanatory variables, researchers provide evidence of result consistency across multiple model specifications and also test the models with both hostile and inclusive policy variables. Such protocols would help avoid ad hoc theorizing.

(2016) Racial resentment and white gun policy preferences in contemporary America, Political Behavior

Our study investigates how and why racial prejudice can fuel white opposition to gun restrictions. Drawing on research across disciplines, we suggest that the language of individual freedom used by the gun rights movement utilizes the same racially meaningful tropes as the rhetoric of the white resistance to black civil rights that developed after WWII and into the 1970s. This indicates that the gun rights narrative is color-coded and evocative of racial resentment. To determine whether racial prejudice depresses white support for gun control, we designed a priming experiment which exposed respondents to pictures of blacks and whites drawn from the IAT. Results show that exposure to the prime suppressed support for gun control compared to the control, conditional upon a respondent’s level of racial resentment. Analyses of ANES data (2004–2013) reaffirm these findings. Racial resentment is a statistically significant and substantively important predictor of white opposition to gun control.

(2016) Immigrant Inclusion in the Safety Net: A Framework for Analysis and Effects on Educational Attainment, Policy Studies Journal

Across states, there is substantial variation in the degree to which immigrants and their children are offered public assistance. We present a theoretical framework for analyzing the effects of policy decisions about immigrant inclusion. We apply the framework to investigate the effect of the state safety net on educational attainment. We focus on the years following welfare reform in 1996, when states gained considerable autonomy over welfare policy, including decisions about the eligibility of immigrant residents. Leveraging state‐level data from before and after reform, we estimate a difference‐in‐difference model to identify the effect of variation in immigrant inclusivity on educational attainment. We find that when states broaden the inclusivity of the social safety net to immigrants, young Latinos are more likely to graduate from high school. This effect is present beyond the group of Latino residents who receive additional benefits, suggesting that policy decisions about immigrants spill over to broader communities and communicate broader messages about social inclusion to racial and ethnic groups. We find similar patterns among Asian youth, but not among black and non‐Hispanic white youth. We conclude that immigrant inclusion has consequences for the life prospects of the growing population of youth in high‐immigrant ethnic groups.

Other:

(2019) The Effects of Propaganda on Marginal Members of Social Groups: The Case of Black Female Gun Enthusiasts, DigIntel Labs

Theories of propaganda and misinformation have assumed that the effectiveness of such messages lie with the characteristics of the message or the messenger. However, both social identity theories in psychology and theories of audience reception and interpretive communities in media studies suggest that audience characteristics are equally important in determining whether untruthful messages will be accepted and further disseminated by group members. Position within a social group as well as identity salience can be important factors that mediate the effect of disinformation. We provide a preliminary, qualitative test of this theory by studying black women gun enthusiasts. These women are participating members within a community but given their intersectional identities their position within the gun rights community is at the margins. Our qualitative data drawn from closed ended interviews and focus group transcripts show that although propaganda messages about the media and about firearms that are disseminated by the NRA do have some effect on these women, they are not passive recipients, but rather they are selective and critical audiences that provide their own interpretations, based on their lived experiences. We argue that the study of social group members based on their role and position within the group can have important implications for both theory and practice.

Media Appearances:

Newspaper Quotes:

(2018) Scientific American

Mention of my research on guns.

(2018) www.deutschlandfunk.de

Interview related to my research on gun control.

(2017) Washington Post

 Washington Post, “What Social Science Can Tell Us about Mass Shootings,” Discussion on my research on guns.