Vanessa Cruz Nichols

Vanessa Cruz Nichols

Assistant Professor, Political Science


  • Ph.D., Political Science, University of Michigan, 2017
  • M.A., Political Science, University of Michigan, 2012
  • B.A., Political Science and Economics, DePaul University

About Vanessa Cruz Nichols

My research interests fall within the scope of Latino politics, political participation, public opinion, identity politics and experiments. My dissertation, "Latinos Rising to the Challenge: Political Responses to Threat and Opportunity Messages,” focuses on mobilizing messages and how they might create a more engaged or disengaged citizenry. My research aims to re-assess the hypothesis that threat is the main mobilizing catalyst for heightened political participation. I argue that our understanding of threat has suffered from poor measurement issues that contradict the theoretical underpinnings of a contentious political context, one involving cues about potential policy losses and policy gains. In short, policy threat has overwhelmingly been simplified and operationalized as a dichotomous variable consisting of either the presence or the absence of threat. As a result of focusing too narrowly on threat, my research intends to show that the majority of studies accounting for the effects of one’s political context tend to suffer from an omitted variable bias—the motivating effects of policy opportunities. Thus, an important determinant of threat’s effectiveness is the political context in which it is used. My most recent co-authored publications and works in progress involve the 1.) the spillover effects of immigration policy enforcement in the domain of political/civic engagement among Latinos living in counties with higher immigrant deportation levels, and 2.) whitewashing cues minority political candidates use to minimize racial and partisan opposition.