Testing the “Invisibility Bargain”: Media Imagery, Authoritarianism, and Attitudes Toward Immigrant Social Integration and Political Agency

Awarded Scholars:
Matthew Guardino, Providence College
Jeffrey Pugh, University of Massachusetts-Boston
Project Date:
Jun 2021
Award Amount:

Co-funded with the Carnegie Corporation of New York

Host society views of immigrants as political actors are shaped by dominant group perceptions that they disrupt social norms and hierarchies and by negative political and media discourses around migration. Native-born residents’ attitudes toward immigrant social identities and political activities have important implications: immigrants who face backlash are likely to suffer economically and socially as they confront barriers to integration. Political scientists Matthew Guardino and Jeffrey Pugh will examine the social and psychological factors that activate or mitigate public intolerance of migrant activism. They will address these questions: (1) how do markers of cultural difference (e.g.: language and accent, religious identity) shape native-born residents’ social acceptance of migrants and tolerance for immigrant political activity? (2) how do their individual predispositions and experiences influence their support for immigrant social inclusion and political integration? (3) how do visual depictions in media discourse influence their political intolerance of immigrants? The investigators will conduct an online survey (YouGov) with an embedded experiment with a nationally representative sample of 1,800 adults to explore the individual-level and contextual factors that influence native-born citizens’ expectations for immigrant behavior. They will also identify factors, especially ideological identity, authoritarianism, social dominance orientation, and intergroup contact, that may amplify or diminish the intensity of any backlash against immigrants. They hypothesize that conservative identification, authoritarian traits, and signals of outgroup political threat amplify invisibility demands, while contact with immigrants mitigates them.


RSF: The Russell Sage Foundation Journal of the Social Sciences is a peer-reviewed, open-access journal of original empirical research articles by both established and emerging scholars.


The Russell Sage Foundation offers grants and positions in our Visiting Scholars program for research.


Join our mailing list for email updates.